AL ASAD, Iraq -- The “Banshees” of Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 1 arrived here recently to help protect service members on the battlefield with the cutting edge technology in their EA-6B Prowlers.
They replace the “Seahawks” of VMAQ-4, who returned to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., after spending six months here in support of the mission of Multi-National Forces Iraq.
“We’re prepared to meet the mission requirements that are sent to us in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom,” said Sgt. Maj. George Espinosa, VMAQ-1 sergeant major and native of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. “Our Marines work pretty hard and are very motivated.”
The squadron deployed here with almost 200 Marines. According to Espinosa, a large number of them are on their first deployment to this region and are excited to participate in real-world operations.
“Everywhere we’ve gone we’ve been training for this,” said Cpl. Jaa E. Tucker, an electronic countermeasures technician assigned to the squadron’s avionics section. “We’re in the fight now and all that training has helped us out.”
Tucker, from Colquitt, Ga., said that last year the unit spent seven months at Marine Corps Air Station, Iwakuni, Japan, supporting the Unit Deployment Program. Along with maintaining combat readiness for any contingencies in the western Pacific, the squadron participated in several allied and joint force exercises.
Earlier this year they participated in the Weapons and Tactics Instructors Course and Exercise Desert Talon at MCAS Yuma, Ariz. During these training evolutions the Marines had an opportunity to prepare for what the environment and the operational tempo would be like during their stay here.
“Desert Talon gave us an opportunity to get used to the desert and particularly the heat,” said 1st Lt. Russell A. Strange, electronic countermeasures officer and Cresson, Pa., native. “We have to learn how to deal with it physically and we also have to learn how the jets deal with it. Our maintenance Marines did a great job helping us get our jets here and I have to give kudos to them for working on our jets in these conditions.”
While the triple-digit temperatures of the Al Anbar province may not offer the most welcoming environment to the recently arrived Marines, their commitment to help the squadron accomplish its mission keeps them pushing through.
“The Marines have been adapting very well to the conditions and we’re working every day to improve our headquarters and our maintenance sections to make our Marines comfortable and keep them focused on their mission,” said Espinosa. “We had a good turnover with [VMAQ-4] and they built a good foundation for us to start off with.”
While much of the unit’s mission is classified, the EA-6B Prowlers disable enemy capabilities using specialized equipment. “Just like any other Marine aviation unit here we’re here for the guys on the ground,” said Strange.
- For more information about the Marines reported on in this story, please contact Sgt. Juan Vara by e-mail at email@example.com -