CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan --
Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 40 officially changed its squadron nickname to “Smokin’ Aces” from the “Thoroughbreds” at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, Sept. 3.
The change in name is actually a return to an older moniker for the squadron. MALS-40 wore the name Smokin’ Aces during their last yearlong commitment to Afghan operations in 2009. Most Marine Corps aviation squadrons and groups have official names and logos, featured on items ranging from unit signs to patches.
“The choice to go back to being the Smokin’ Aces probably means a lot to those Marines who came out here when the facility was nothing but a dirt lot,” said Lt. Col. Russell Blauw, the Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 40 commanding officer. “They stood this place up, and when they did they wore Smokin’ Aces patches on their chests. Many of those Marines went home and they wanted to come back and serve in the squadron they helped establish here.”
Blauw explained the nickname Smokin’ Aces symbolizes that Marines from all major air combat elements, or “ACEs,” are represented in the squadron.
Cpl. Christopher Sagarino, a Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 40 airframes maintenance technician, deployed with the squadron in 2009. He has returned to Afghanistan with the squadron in 2011, and assisted the command in constructing a metal sign bearing its new name.
“I remember seeing the new design and thinking about how cool it looks, and how glad it made me to know we were going to be the Aces again,” said Sagarino, a native of Farmingdale, N.Y.
Through the design process for the new logo, Marines who designed the previous one were consulted to ensure it was historically accurate.
“With the change in design we wanted to make sure that the new patch looked more like a squadron patch than a detachment patch,” Blauw said. “In the designing phase we also made sure that those that had originally came up with the squadron’s old design approved of the changes we made.”
The new design features the names of all three installations the squadron supports in Afghanistan, Camp Dwyer, Camp Bastion and Kandahar Airfield, with Afghan and U.S. flags.
In 2009 the Marines of MALS-40 received the Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron of the Year award. The squadron also received the Phoenix Award for their excellence in providing intermediate-level maintenance and aviation ordnance to the flying squadrons supporting coalition efforts in Afghanistan.
“We really wanted to change our name back to Smokin’ Aces to recognize the accomplishments of the Marines who served in the squadron in 2009,” said Blauw. “By sharing the name of Smokin’ Aces it makes us strive to be as good or better than they were and they set the bar pretty high.”
Though the name Smokin’ Aces harkens back to the squadron’s last deployment to Afghanistan, the unit’s history can be traced back as far as the Vietnam War, when it was known as Headquarters and Maintenance Squadron 40.
“I think that it is important for Marines to look to the past to help them move on in their futures,” said Sgt. Maj. Thomas Ruppert, the MALS-40 sergeant major. “I feel that the Marines are proud to be a part of this unit and what we do every day to support aircraft.”