MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- Marines are taught about the camaraderie and brotherhood of the Corps from their first days in boot camp, but few would expect those ideals to hold as true as they do for a group of military policemen from the '80s.
Nine former station MPs returned to Yuma after nearly 25 years to reunite with old friends and visit their Marine Corps roots.
"For the most part, we all landed here out of boot camp for our first duty station," said Fred Oster, who organized the whole event. "It's awesome to be back here. But it's too bad that some of the guys couldn't make it."
This band of brothers traveled from all over the country to revisit the air station, including Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas and even as far away as Alaska.
While this is the group's second reunion, it is their first return to Yuma.
"We had a 20-year reunion five years ago and that was a success," said Oster, who hosted both reunions. "But the last one was held at my farm in Iowa. At that reunion, we decided to come back to Yuma, to the place where we all met."
The group reunited Friday, sharing stories and reminiscing over old photos throughout the afternoon.
"I'm loving this," said Michael Danko, a Hammond, Ind., Police Department sergeant, who spent 1985-87 as a Yuma MP. "I was really excited about coming to this. The memories these guys bring back are amazing."
The next day the station provost marshal's office gave the group a tour of the base, which showed the Yuma veterans how much the air station has grown.
"I can't believe how much this place has changed," said Danko. "It's amazing. I remember it being just dirt and scrub brush."
However, the station isn't the only thing that grew. The friends were surprised with how much the city of Yuma has grown and developed.
"That lot, the place directly in front of the main gate, that used to be nothing but a field of wheat," said Danko. "Some of the other guys and me used to go dove hunting there. It totally blows my mind that there's anything there at all."
Most of these men left the Corps after their first terms, but all of them left Yuma. The individuals now work in a variety of fields.
"Some of us stayed in law enforcement and some got into other things," said Oster. "I certainly think that boot camp and military police training added to all of our success."
Several members in the group switched to civilian law enforcement as soon as they left the Corps, racking up 20 or more years in the police force to this day.
"When I got hired by the Mesa PD, my experience with military police was a major factor in them hiring me," said Mike Traficano, Mesa, Ariz., Police Department helicopter pilot, who left active service in 1987 and joined Mesa PD in 1988. "It's also played a large part in my success within Mesa PD."
In the end, the bonds of friendship these veterans share endured nearly two and a half decades and is sure to last even longer.
"It's great to get together with these guys I worked with 25 years ago and share stories and experiences about the base," said Traficano, who served as a station MP 1986-87. "I hope we have another one of these in the future. It's all about the camaraderie."