Photo Information

Staff Sgt. Matthew Wallfred, quality assurance chief for Marine Aerial Refueler Squadron 252 detachment attached to 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, hugs his family after returning to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point January 9, after an eight-month deployment to Sicily, Italy and Djibouti. "It's always hard to be away for the holidays," said Wallfred, "but it's one of those things that come with the job."

Photo by Cpl. Tyler J. Bolken

Home just after holidays: Cherry Point aerial refueling squadron returns from 8-month deployment

9 Jan 2012 | Cpl. Tyler J. Bolken

Close to 50 Marines of Marine Aerial Refueler Squadron 252 reunited with family and friends January 9 on the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point flight line.

The Marines were attached to the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit and deployed with two of their KC-130J Hercules transport aircraft for nearly eight months, spending four and a half months at Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily, Italy and three and a half months in Djibouti.

"We had a very high operational tempo," said Maj. Ed Fergus, who served as the detachment's officer in charge. "We operated over three different geographic commands and conducted a lot of fixed wing refueling, helicopter refueling, aerial deliveries – the whole gamut."

In Italy the detachment supported operations over Libya as part of Operation Unified Protector, and in Djibouti, they supported national mission tasking for antiterrorism efforts in support of Operation Copper Dune.

Tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel was the detachments primary mission while in Italy, explained Staff Sgt. Matthew Wallfred, the quality assurance chief for the detachment.

"It wasn't just about airplanes getting hours and stuff like that," Wallfred said, giving the Marines a greater sense of gratification. "I think that was one of the more rewarding aspects."

During the entire eight months, the detachment experienced zero incidents, zero injuries and a 100 percent mission success rate, Fergus explained.

"That's unheard of, and it's incredible," he added. "I've got nothing but praise for every one of these Marines."

Being away for the entire holiday season presented another twist for the Marines, and for many of them it means now is the time for a lot of catching up.

"There's eight months of lost time," said Fergus. "We all wished we were here with our loved ones, but it's part of the business and what we signed up to do."

Making the detachments experience all the more memorable, they adopted a slogan for their nickname, 'Charlie.' - "Winning across the globe," in light of the antics of the illustrious Charlie Sheen.

"It was the most phenomenal eight months of my career," said Fergus.

Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point