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Lance Cpl. Ernest Carrillo, Marine Attack Squadron 214 ordnance technician, holds his son, Ernest Noel, for the first time in seven months after returning to the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Ariz., Nov. 22, 2009, from a deployment to Afghanistan. Approximately 200 Marines from VMA-214 and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13 arrived after spending half a year providing air support, armed reconnaissance and air defense for Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan.

Photo by Cpl. Pete Zrioka

Yuma's VMA-214, MALS-13 Marines return home from Afghanistan

25 Nov 2009 | Cpl. Pete Zrioka

After a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan, approximately 200 Marines from Marine Attack Squadron 214 and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13, along with 10 AV-8B Harriers, returned to the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Ariz., Nov. 22, 2009.

VMA-214 flew 1,374 missions, totaling more than 3,500 combat hours, and dropped more than 20,000 pounds of ordnance, while stationed at Kandahar Airfield as part of Marine Aircraft Group 40.

"In the rear, a nondeployed unit flies approximately 2,200 flight hours in a year," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Justin Burdick, VMA-214 maintenance material control officer.

In addition to the squadron’s mission of providing air support, armed reconnaissance and air defense for Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan, they participated in some nontraditional missions, including maintaining tactical operations of all Marine squadrons at Kandahar.

This marked the first time a Marine attack squadron has controlled a task force in this fashion, said Lt. Col. Eric Schaefer, VMA-214 commanding officer.

Blacksheep pilots also dropped 5,500 pounds of ordnance to destroy 300 tons of confiscated poppy and poppy tar, which can be used to produce heroin. The poppy products, found by Marines of Regimental Combat Team 3, MEB-A, were soaked with diesel, piled in the desert and bombed by VMA-214 Harriers.

Flying an average of five missions a day, the squadron not only maintained a perfect flight schedule but exceeded expectations, with no mishaps or cancelled missions.

Despite successes achieved in Afghanistan, most Marines were content with finally returning home.

"It just feels absolutely great to be home," said Lance Cpl. Ernest Carrillo, VMA-214 ordnance technician.

Upon leaving Kandahar, VMA-214 transferred control over to the Cherry Point, N.C.-based VMA-231.

The Blacksheep’s next deployment is slated to be with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit late next year.

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