MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. (Feb. 9, 2011) --
It’s been a little over three months since the Marines of Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 3 departed Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point en route to Afghanistan in October 2010.
The time frame between now and then has coincided with momentous occasions to include Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and Super Bowl Sunday, to name a few.
“It’s brought us together a lot,” said Lance Cpl. Daniel J. Swisher, a 20-year-old powerline mechanic with VMAQ-3 on his first deployment. “We’re working seven days a week out here – work and sleep.”
The VMAQ-3 Marines, known as the Moondogs, and five of their EA-6B Prowlers are at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, which is the largest coalition base in Afghanistan – located in the mountains north of Kabul.
“It’s a huge place,” said Sgt. Maj. Holly C. Prafke, VMAQ-3 sergeant major.
The Moondogs’ primary purpose in Afghanistan has been to fully employ the capabilities of their Prowler, an aircraft with the abilities to enable troops on the ground greater freedom of movement through its advanced electronics.
VMAQ-3 is one of only four such squadrons in the Marine Corps, all of which fall under the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. Needless to say, these squadrons are very busy.
“We’ve been more than capable of accomplishing our mission,” said Lt. Col. Marty A. Moore, VMAQ-3 commanding officer. “What we’re doing on a daily basis is allowing the ground forces to operate in this battle space.”
The squadron has conducted more than 330 flight missions, comprising more than 1,360 flight hours – made possible by the more than 7,460 direct maintenance man-hours. The squadron has also surpassed more than 36,000 total mishap-free flight hours.
“Everyone understands their mission and takes it one day at a time,” explained Capt. Brian L. Hill, assistant aircraft maintenance officer with VMAQ-3. “If you look too far down the road, each day will take longer than you expect.”
To break up the monotony, a few of the Marines said they find themselves playing a lot of ping-pong or hitting the gym.
“Ping-pong or working out,” said Swisher.
Cpl. Glenn R. Boise, a 21-year-old operations clerk with VMAQ-3, said, “I’m still not good at ping-pong, but I hit the gym every day.”
The squadron has also made an effort to provide an array of advanced training opportunities for the Marines, through the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, Marine Corps Institute training courses and, as of Feb. 4, a corporals course.
“We’re going to be able to do about three corporals courses while we’re over here,” said Prafke. “They’re pumped about it.”
She added that the Marines’ morale has also been boosted by unique visitors to Bagram.
“Robin Williams was here, the president came out here around Christmas and the vice president came out here two weeks ago,” Prafke said. “We’ve been kind of spoiled.”
VMAQ-3 is slated to return to the air station later this year, and Moore said his goal for the squadron is to maintain its mission efficiency, while continuing to train his Marines.
“We want to make and mold better Marine Corps leaders,” said Moore.