MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. -- More than 90 Marines and Sailors with Marine Attack Squadron 542 and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 14 returned to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., Nov. 19, after more than six-months deployed with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.
During the deployment, VMA-542 and MALS-14 were attached to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262, (Reinforced), the Aviation Combat Element of the MEU, during its patrol of the Asia-Pacific region.
According to Master Sgt. Jeremy M. Kirk, an aircraft maintenance chief with VMA-542, the Marines performed well.
“Our mission, while we were out there, was to provide aviation support for the 31st MEU,” said Kirk, a native of Gallup, N.M. “During the deployment our Marines embraced the opportunity to train and better themselves.”
VMA-542 rotated to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. The Marines also participated in Amphibious Landing Exercise 2015 in the Republic of the Philippines alongside the Philippine Air Force and Marines.
“The Marines of the 31st MEU and the Philippine service members worked together while conducting PHIBLEX 15,” said Lance Cpl. Kevin Maldonado, the administrative noncommissioned officer in charge with VMA-542.
According to Maldonado, The service members conducted a command post exercise which included small arms and artillery live-fire training, amphibious operations, ship-to-shore movement and combined arms training. Additionally, they conducted civil military operations including humanitarian and civic assistance projects.
PHIBLEX 15 is conducted to build a strong partnership while improving the interoperability among the United States and the Republic of the Philippines armed services, said Maldonado, a native of Clarksville, Tenn. The exercise increased the readiness of both countries and enhanced their humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capability.
“The highlight of the deployment for me was to be able to take a bunch of younger Marines and help them grow and watch them gain experience in the jobs they do,” said Kirk.
The operational tempo aboard ship was high, said Lance Cpl. Bradley P. Bennett, an aircraft ordnance technician with the squadron.
“While on the ship we were able to sustain and refine the fundamentals to remain a constant force-in-readiness,” said Bennett, a native of Geneva, Ohio.
According to Bennett, his favorite part of being attached to the MEU was visiting to all the different countries and seeing new aspects of the world.
The Marines felt a sense of accomplishment after returning to the air station, said Bennett.
“It feels great to be back,” said Bennett. “I had an awesome time getting a chance to see the world, but what I am looking forward to now is being able to spend time with my family for the first time in more than six months.”