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Sand Sharks back from Iraq

By Lance Cpl. Robert L. Botkin | | September 15, 2005

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The main body of Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 returned to the station Sept. 8 after a seven-month deployment to Al Anbar Province of Iraq.

The Marines and sailors arrived at 6 a.m. at Hangar 220, where a crowd of family and friends, including Marines from the two MWSS-371 advance parties that returned Aug. 30 and Sept. 1, greeted them.

During the deployment, MWSS-371 performed all of the standard duties of a wing support squadron, including heavy equipment operation, motor transportation, aircraft rescue and firefighting, weather services, expeditionary airfield operations, fuels, utilities, explosive ordnance disposal, food service and engineering.

“Our Marines have done an extraordinary job with setting up the airfields at the different bases,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Stephen Rudinski, a native of Wellsboro, Pa. who served as officer-in-charge of aircraft rescue firefighting while MWSS-371 was in Al Taqaddum, Iraq. “All the work they have done is a testament to their work ethic.”

In addition to performing their duties, MWSS-371 also aided 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion’s logistical support convoys by supplying drivers and mechanics.

The Marines embraced their deployment, said Lance Cpl. Jonathan Sotelo, MWSS-371 combat cameraman. It was a chance for them to put into practice all of the field training and planning they had done.

It was great to be in Iraq doing the jobs they were trained to do while serving their country, said Lance Cpl. Devin Walker, an expeditionary airfield crewmember and native of Tulare, Calif.

It was also a learning experience, said Sotelo, a native of Fresno, Calif., who had already been deployed once before.

“All of our Marines worked together to accomplish our job,” said Sgt. Ramon Zuniga, a maintenance platoon section chief and Dallas native. “We had guys working on equipment they had never repaired before.”

With nearly 600 Marines on deployment, the MWSS-371 Marines who stayed behind for various reasons had a full plate as well, moving their headquarters from Building 852 to the Cannon Air Defense Complex almost 10 miles away.

All of MWSS-371’s equipment was moved during the deployment, but setting up the individual shops is a job that was left for the main body to do when they returned.

After the deployment, setting up shop again should be no problem for the Sand Sharks, as they’ve gained a new appreciation for their fellow Marines and the nation they serve, said Sotelo.

“The American public has no idea of the quality of their Marines and the leadership of the Corps,” said Sotelo.

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