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MWSS-371 says farewell, deploys to support war on terrorism

By Sgt. David A. Bryant | | February 20, 2003

More than 300 Marines and sailors from Marine Wing Support Squadron-371 said tearful farewells to family and friends Feb. 11 as they boarded planes to the Persian Gulf region in support of operations in the Middle East.

The remainder of the squadron left later in the week as flights became available, said Capt. Patrick A. Gaughan, assistant operations officer, MWSS-371.

"I'm going to do what I have to do," said Lance Cpl. Jacob Champagne, a weather observer. "But I feel bad about leaving [my wife] behind, especially because she's pregnant."

Champagne's wife, Tammy Champagne, who is also a lance corporal with MWSS-371, is five months pregnant, he said. The two were married in December.

"I'm going to miss him," Tammy said. "He may not be able to make it back in time for his first child's birth. I'm just looking forward to him getting back already."

As a Marine, Tammy said she wishes she could be going with her husband.

"It will be a good experience," she said. "If I wasn't pregnant, I would want to go. It's what we joined the Marine Corps for."

MWSS-371 was not originally scheduled as part of the U.S. war plans, and was added approximately four weeks before the unit shipped out, Gaughan said. However, the unit is the only MWSS in the Marine Corps qualified to run Forward Arming and Refueling Positions. The unit conducts extensive training on FARPs in support of the Weapons and Tactics Instructor course, which makes them a valuable addition to the war effort.

Hopes are high, although some married Marines are already missing their families.

"I can't wait to get back home already," said Sgt. Daryl Neal, a military policeman with MWSS-371. "I just want to tell my wife, 'I love you, I'm going to miss you and I'll be home soon.'"

Other Marines are just excited and ready to go, said Cpl. Nicholas Gianni, an expeditionary airfield technician.

"This is what we come into work for every day, it's what we train for," Gianni said. "We're definitely ready to put that training to use. We all want to see what we've learned together used in a real-time situation."

The Marines hope to see their families and friends again soon, and ask their fellow Marines still on station to protect their families here at home, he added.

"This is what the Marine Corps is all about," Gianni said. "We'll see you when we get back."
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