MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. --
More than 70 Marines from Marine Attack Squadron 211 and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13 left the air station Jan. 4 to attach to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in Japan for deployment.
The Marines will join approximately 70 others who’ve already departed for Japan with eight of the squadron’s AV-8B Harriers in December.
The Wake Island Avengers’ last deployment was in 2009, also with the 31st MEU.
Sailing aboard the USS Essex, the Yuma Marines are slated to travel to locations such as Thailand and the Philippines, participating in international joint-service exercises like Golden Fang and simulated noncombatant evacuation operations.
"We learn the capabilities that participating nations have, learn to work with each other in a joint service environment and provide theater security," said Sgt. Maj. Robert Pullen, VMA-211 sergeant major, who is deploying with the squadron for the first time.
Though Marines will perform the same duties on ship as they do stateside, they must do so while interacting with different service branches and while using more limited resources.
"This lets (the squadron) view the big picture of how different services operate together, so they can become better Marines, more well-rounded in their jobs," said Pullen.
For Marines who haven’t deployed, the MEU is an exciting prospect for both new locales and a more dynamic working environment.
"I’m excited to go on my first deployment," said Lance Cpl. Colin Klingler, VMA-211 operations specialist. "I want to experience the different cultures."
"I’m looking forward to getting into some shenanigans," Lance Cpl. Tyler Kissell, VMA-211 administration clerk, added jokingly.
A first deployment isn’t an experience shared exclusively by Marines; Avenger spouses will also contend with having their significant others away at sea for the first time.
"It didn’t hit me until we pulled away after dropping him off and my son asked, ‘Where’s Daddy going?’" said Doorly Winegar, VMA-211 spouse, whose husband is currently overseas. "But I’m so proud he’s able to do this. He has an opportunity to serve his country. I wouldn’t trade it in for the world."