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Cpl. Erik I. Thomas, Marine Attack Squadron 513 powerline mechanic and native of Dallas, secures bolts on an AV-8B Harrier II engine during an engine change Friday at VMA-513?s hangar. VMA-513 is preparing to deploy in February to Iraq, which has the squadron preparing both mechanically and mentally. Marines have been updating record books and insurance information, as well as preparing their families for the deployment.

Photo by Pfc. Robert L. Botkin

VMA-513 prepares to deploy

20 Jan 2006 | Pfc. Robert L. Botkin

Marine Attack Squadron 513 is scheduled to deploy to Iraq in February, and the Marines and sailors of the unit are busy preparing for their journey to the Middle East.

In addition to ensuring all the aircraft are ready to deploy, VMA-513 is making sure that its personnel are prepared to go, both mentally and administratively.

The squadron held an administrative audit Friday to update the deploying troops Servicemember Group Life Insurance policies and Service Record Books, but that’s just part of the process, said Staff Sgt. Jason D. Bolz, VMA-513 maintenance control staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge and native of Grand Rapids, Mich.

Bolz said he found out about the deployment in September of 2004, and the early notice, even though the exact details were still fuzzy, helped give him a chance to prepare well in advance.

“My wife moved home to her mother and father with our kids to help her deal with the stress and have support,” said Bolz. “It’s something that we’ve been approaching on a regular basis. It didn’t come as a shock.”

The early notice also helped him talk to his children and explain to them the risks and what he does to make sure he will be safe, said Bolz.

This has been a new experience for Bolz. He has been deployed before, but never to an area as dangerous as Iraq, he said.

Helping the Marines who will be going on their first deployment has also been one of the steps in preparing for deployment, said Bolz.

“As the needs arise, I’ve been talking to my troops and the Marines that are underneath me and helping them decide what they’re going to do,” said Bolz.

Making sure that the Marines’ families stay informed is an important part of the pre-deployment process, as is making sure that they have resources available to help cope with the absence of their Marine, said Bolz.

Despite the difficulties, many Marines have met the deployment with enthusiasm.

“I was ready to go,” said Cpl. Christopher M. DelValle, VMA-513 seat mechanic and native of Kenilworth, N.J. “That’s why I joined the Marine Corps, because of September eleventh. I grew up really close to New York, so I joined to defend this country.”

While happy to be going, DelValle said he was also glad he got as much notice as he did so he could prepare himself properly.

The Marines of VMA-513 have a number of reasons to look forward to the deployment, aside from the personal pride of defending the country.

“I won’t have any distractions,” said Cpl. Casey Sweo, maintenance administration clerk and native of Temecula, Calif. “I’ll be able to concentrate on working out and getting better at my job.”

Just the experience of being deployed and operating under those conditions is enough to make Sweo look toward the experience favorably, he said.

The squadron was scheduled to deploy regardless of the current military action in Iraq, but being able to help the Iraqi people build a stronger country after having removed Saddam Hussien from his dictatorship has made the experience all the more worthwhile, said DelValle.
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