AL ASAD -- The Marine Corps’ aviation is geared to help the Marines on the ground. Whether it’s dropping bombs on the enemy, transporting supplies or extracting wounded warriors, Marines can always count on support from the Aircraft Wing.
One of those squadrons providing that support is the “Green Knights” of Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 121.
“(Our mission is to) rapidly deploy for combat operations and support the (Marine Air Ground Task Force) Commander by providing support arms coordination, conducting multi-sensor imagery reconnaissance, destroying surface targets and enemy aircraft day or night under all weather conditions during expeditionary, joint, or combined operations,” said Sgt. Maj. Antonio N. Vizcarrondo Jr., the VMFA(AW)-121 sergeant major. “Like our commanding officer says, ‘In short deploy, employ and destroy, which we have been doing day and night since we have been on deck.’”
The Green Knights, who arrived at Al Asad late February, have been focused on getting the aircraft off the flightline and into the air in support of their fellow Marines on the ground.
“It is critical that we continue to control the airspace in and around Iraq,” said Vizcarrondo, a Boston, Mass., native. “Our mission here is vital to the security of the Middle East region, Iraq, and to the security of our country.”
From turning wrenches on the flightline to taking care of administrative issues, the Green Knights are performing flawlessly.
“The junior marines are doing a spectacular job,” said Sgt. Christopher A. Torres, an aircraft maintenance administration specialist for VMFA(AW)-121. “Despite the heat, climate change, mental stress and being away from family, all the junior Marines have adapted and overcome. They are getting the job done by putting out 110 percent everyday.”
Although some jobs in the squadron may not be as glorious as others, the Marines know that they are an important factor in the squadron’s success.
“I mostly do paperwork, keeping all the times for the aircrafts and engines for the FA-18Ds we have in our custody, but it all ties into one job, one squadron, one team, one fight,” said Torres, a Berjen, New Jersey, native. “That’s why we are here in Al Asad, Iraq, to drop bombs where they need to be dropped. If there's one missing link to the team, then we might have some problems, but the Green Knights get the job done.”
The Green Knights do not just go through the motions of their job and just do what they need to get paid or get through the day, they take their job to the next level.
“I take pride in ensuring that Marines use their knowledge and training in a safe manner while accomplishing the mission,” Staff Sgt. Everado Uribe-Lopez, a quality assurance representative for VMFA (AW)-121 and Pomona, Calif., native. “We ensure a safe evolution between maintenance and flights, making sure Naval Aviation Maintenance Procedures are followed.”
Recently, several Green Knights have shown their commitment and dedication to the squadron and their job by raising their hands for another tour of duty in the Corps.
“I chose to re-enlist because the Marine Corps has a lot to offer me and my future family,” said Torres. “I love my job, not a lot of people in the world can say they love their job. I may not be excited about waking up in the desert every morning for seven months, but its part of the job description. Not everyone can say they have seen what I have seen or done what I have done.”
Marines like Torres and his fellow Green Knights are a direct reflection of the squadron and its success, a success which lies squarely on the shoulders of the squadron’s non-commissioned officers.
“Our NCO's are the backbone of this unit, they are our plane captains, (Collateral Duty Quality Assurance Representatives) and (Collateral Duty Inspectors),” said Vizcarrondo. “They check and inspect every portion of these multi-million dollar aircraft. They ensure that every system is working correctly and make sure the aircraft is safe for the mission before the aircrew straps in.”
Although their jobs are different and a little less dangerous, Vizcarrondo believes that his Marines are no different from those on the ground.
“They are not unlike the NCO in the infantry unit that makes those pre combat checks and inspections prior to leaving the wire,” said Vizcarrondo. “Our NCOs are motivated, dedicated professionals that teach, lead and instruct our junior Marines to the highest degree day in and day out. I am proud to serve along side these awesome young warriors.”
Despite the fact that the squadron is still in the first months of their deployment,
Vizcarrondo feels confident in his Marines’ ability to continue their success.
“It is still early in our deployment, but I expect us to press forward and get better and better in all we do as Marines here in combat,” said Vizcarrondo. “We will continue to add to our rich combat history and groom the leaders of tomorrow.”