MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- Sixty-seven Marines with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron-13 returned home Saturday from a four and a half month deployment in the Persian Gulf.
Marines and their families and friends were overjoyed to see one another when the commercial jet that carried the Marines home arrived in front of Marine Attack Squadron-211's hangar.
Friends and families drove and flew from all over the United States to meet their loved ones. Some on very short notice.
"I found out three days ago," said Frank Rigalotti, who flew from Pittsburg, Pa., to see his cousin Lance Cpl. Brett A. Mair, computer technician, MALS-13. "I quickly threw down the American Express and came out."
Mair had a lot of support from his cousin while away.
"He helped me get through by sending pictures and e-mails," said Mair.
For many, including Mair, it was very difficult to be away from their spouses.
"The hardest part was being away from the woman. I'm about to go surprise her right now. She has no clue I'm home," explained Mair.
Even though it was rough at times, there was no place else that Marines like Mair would've wanted to be.
"It was well worth it. I was going to [reach my end of active service agreement], but I extended and volunteered to go," said Mair.
MALS-13 was working closely with the squadrons also based on the ship VMA-211, VMA-311, and the Marine Aircraft Group-13 staff.
"Basically our guys on the (USS) Bonhomme-Richard were supporting them," said Lt. Col. Joseph H. Knapp, commanding officer, MAG-13 remain behind element. "They were doing the same thing they do here avionics, ordnance and maintenance support and aviation supply support."
Another component of MALS-13 also contributed their own specialty skills.
Knapp said, "Our AISD, Aviation Information Systems Department, did computer networking, hardware and software. They played a big role on ship as well."
"We've still got a lot of people on the Bonhomme-Richard supporting VMA-311," said Knapp.
While many Marines were deployed to the USS Bonhomme-Richard, some were sent ashore.
According to Knapp, "Part of the guys that returned were stationed ashore. They didn't go on the Bonhomme-Richard, but went in advance and were working with MALS-11 out of Miramar."
MALS-13 and MALS-11 teamed up in support of one of the station's own units.
"They were working to support VMA-214, which is one of our squadrons that flew ashore and operated ashore," said Knapp.
The MALS-13 Marines took a well deserved four-day weekend, and will have an opportunity to take some leave in the next couple of weeks also.
"The Department of the Navy has mandated that a medical screening be done within five days, so most of them are going to enjoy [four days off] and come back to work on Wednesday for the medical screening. Then, following that, at the discretion of their department heads, they can go on leave or just go back to work," explained Knapp.