MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- Main body three, approximately 250 remaining Marines and sailors from Marine Wing Support Squadron 371, drew M-16A4 service rifles and M9 pistols, loaded their gear, and boarded the plane to join the rest of their fellow Marines for a seven-month deployment to Al Anbar Province, Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom Thursday.
MWSS-371 will be relieving the Marines of MWSS-373 from MCAS Miramar, said Sgt. Scott Momper, MWSS-371 administration.
It was a bitter-sweet goodbye for the families and friends of the Marines leaving, but spirits were high and confidence was strong at the Search and Rescue hangar prior to the departure of MWSS-371.
For the Marines, many of whom are going on their first deployment, mixtures of emotions were swirling all around.
“I’m a little nervous about going, but I’m anxious to get over there. I feel confident that we’ll be able to get our job done and get back safely,” said Lance Cpl. Nicole M. Walker, MWSS-371 security platoon immediate response team vehicle driver. “The hardest part will be that I am going to miss my mom and my friends back here.”
Walker talked to her mother, who was unable to be here to see her off, on her cell phone up until the Marines formed up for accountability to board the plane.
“My mom supports me all the way,” said Walker. “She knows that this is what I want to do and she just wants me to come back safely.”
MWSS-371 has been training since August 2006, participating in the Desert Talon exercises and the Weapons and Tactics Instructor course in preparation for this deployment.
“I’m proud to be part of fighting for what we believe in,” said Cpl. Trevor P. Grayston, MWSS-371 security platoon immediate response team assistant vehicle commander. “We’ve had good training and we’ll be able to do what we need to do over there well.”
MWSS-371 will officially take over March 25, said Sgt. Maj. Joseph D. Shaw, MWSS-371 sergeant major, before he left with the advanced party Feb. 28. The advanced party’s mission was to get all the gear signed over from MWSS-373 so MWSS-371 can officially take over.
“I’m excited to finally put all of our training to use,” said Walker. “This is going to be an experience that I’ll never forget. I’m overwhelmed with all kinds of emotions, but I’m most proud of being able to serve with these awesome Marines and fight for what we know is right.”