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Yuma's VMA-211 ready for 2011 deployment

By Desert Warrior Staff | | November 4, 2010

More than 100 Marines from Marine Attack Squadron 211 and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13 returned home to the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Ariz., from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Ariz., Oct. 30, 2010, after completing the last leg of their predeployment training.

The Marines have been at the base since Oct. 17, 2010, preparing for their deployment with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit early next year, choosing to train at Davis-Monthan because Yuma’s ranges were busy for the semiannual Weapons and Tactics Instructor course.

“The whole point is to work as if we were deployed,” said Capt. Eric Biskner, squadron pilot. “We’re learning our mistakes when we’re three hours away from home, as opposed to half the world away.”

AV-8B Harrier pilots flew a variety of missions that included close-air support, aerial reconnaissance and aerial refueling. The Wake Island Avengers also worked with the Air Force’s 355th Fighter Wing, flying with A-10 Thunderbolt II pilots who acted as aerial forward air controllers.

“We’ve accomplished all goals regarding pilot proficiency, flight hours, and met all the training requirements,” said Lt. Col. Bret Ritterby, VMA-211 commanding officer, who will be deploying with the squadron for the first time. “The squadron has exceeded my expectations. This has been a major team building event for us.”

Ritterby is not the only one deploying with the squadron for the first time.

“I’m looking forward to traveling and seeing other countries,” said Lance Cpl. Tyler Kissell, VMA-211 administration clerk. “I didn’t want to deploy at first (when I got here), but the camaraderie of the squadron brought me around.”

“I see it as good training for new Marines,” said Sgt. Phillip Belanger, VMA-211 airframes mechanic, who has deployed before. “The layout is more training for pilots, so that means more training for maintenance.”

VMA-211 is scheduled to travel to countries such as Japan and Thailand and participate in international joint-service exercises while deployed.

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