MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- Several dozen Marine Air Control Squadron 1 Marines returned to the loving smiles and embraces of family and friends at the Sonoran Pueblo here Aug. 16.
The 36 Marines and sailors returned home after a seven-month tour in Al Asad, Iraq, in support of the MACS-1 units operating in Iraq.
The Marines performed duties similar to what they would in Yuma, monitoring air space, ensuring the safety of aerial operations and providing mechanical and logistical support, except on a larger scale, said Capt. James Hale, MACS-1 headquarters detachment company commanding officer. There were times when the Marines took on twice their normal responsibilities.
There were some slow days when the Marines could catch their breath, but it seemed every slow day was followed by two or three extremely busy ones, said Hale. But the Marines were able to adapt quickly to a new environment and still get the job done each day, he said.
“It was incredible to see a group of corporals and sergeants take on the billets of staff sergeants and gunnery sergeants and excel,” said Hale, a native of Laredo, Texas.
Because of their outstanding work, several Marines were nominated to receive Navy and
Marine Corps Achievement Medals, said Hale. It just goes to show the level of professionalism and excellence MACS-1 can depend on from its Marines, he said. But the important thing is that everyone returned home safely to their families and friends.
The Marines showed up in front of the club to the cheers, applause and laughter of the people they temporarily left behind. Even the local media showed up to support the service members and take part in the return celebration.
One of the Marines, Maj. Darry Grossnickle, officer-in-charge of MACS-1 (forward), arrived to find a new member of his family bundled up in a small baby carrier waiting for him.
Grossnickle’s son, Zachary, was born three weeks prior to his return. “This was the first one that I didn’t get to see born,” said Grossnickle, a native of Laurens, Iowa.
Grossnickle said he was happy to be home and planned to spend some time with his family to let his children readjust to having him around, especially his new baby son.
Other Marines missed the small things in life, like central air conditioning.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet for me, but it’s just good to be home,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Richard Williams, senior enlisted advisor to Hale and native of Council Bluffs, Iowa. “It feels good to be back in America. I missed the comforts of home like clean water and air conditioning, the things we take for granted on a daily basis.
“But, for the Marines I went with out there, I’ll tell you that I just love every one of them,” said Williams. “We are just like a big family that has disagreements and fights, but still love each other. They’re just a bunch of great people.” Williams said it was great to serve with his Marines, but was looking forward to being with his family.
Williams’ wife, Nancy Williams, said it was difficult when her husband was deployed, but found solace in receiving e-mail messages from him rather frequently. The most difficult part of him being gone was doing all the jobs around the house he used to take care of, she said. It’s like everything started going wrong as soon as he left. It was a real surprise to find out how much he did for the family, and just goes to show how important he is.
Her statements summed up the feelings of the families and friends who attended the homecoming -- the role of Marines is never ending. The Marines served their country with the utmost honor and diligence, said Hale.
“Serving with them was nothing shy of an honor,” said Hale.