MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- More than 80 Marines and sailors from Marine Attack Squadron 211, known as the Wake Island Avengers, and about 20 troops from Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13 left the station Friday for an approximately six-month-long deployment on the amphibious assault ship USS Tarawa.
The Marines will be operating with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which will probably support Operation Iraqi Freedom during the deployment.
Families gathered with the Marines at 10 a.m. Friday to say their final goodbyes and be together one last time before the squadron left.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Lewis E. Shermery III, maintenance material control officer for the deployment, said he has been looking forward to the deployment since he first heard of it. This is Lewis' fourth deployment, so his family was prepared.
"They'll be fine," the Schwenksville, Pa., native said of his family. "They've always been fine. I've got a strong family and strong wife. It doesn't faze her; she's good to go."
Many of the Marines' families do not have the experience of Lewis' though, as roughly half of the Marines have never been deployed before.
Lance Cpl. Katrina M. Newman, aviation technician and native of Rochester, Minn., found out about the deployment approximately six months ago.
This will be Newman's first deployment, but she was very enthused about going and said her family shared her sentiment.
"I volunteered (for the deployment)," said Newman. "(My family) was excited too. They know I like to travel."
"It's always tough because families don't want to see their dads leave, or their husbands," said Gunnery Sgt. Michael E. Brown, the noncommissioned officer-in-charge and ordnance chief for the deployment. "It's real easy on us, because we get to go and hang out with other Marines who are going through the same thing on a daily basis. It's just tough on (the families), because they have to do everything."
This is Brown's ninth deployment, but the first one where his four-year-old daughter realizes he won't be coming back for an extended period of time.
"Before I left, I made tapes. I read books into tapes so she can hear my voice all the time," said Brown, a native of Spokane, Wash.
The ship the Marines will be on is equipped to send e-mail, allowing the Marines to keep in contact with their families and loved ones much faster than conventional mail would allow.
"That makes it a lot easier on them," said Brown. "Whatever kinds of problems they're running into, you just get on the e-mail and help get an answer."
Despite the separation from their loved ones, the Marines were all ready to go, anxious to get underway.
"I would venture to say 90 percent of the Marines on this deployment volunteered to do it," said Brown. "Marines want to deploy. No matter how bad it is when they leave like this, they want to deploy. I have Marines working in my shop in ordnance that were just hoping somebody couldn't go so they could."
After the final goodbyes Friday, the VMA-211 and MALS-13 Marines and sailors loaded into buses for the trip to San Diego, where they boarded the USS Tarawa. Six Avenger aircraft and pilots departed the air station to join the 13th MEU on the USS Tarawa Saturday.