-MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz Marine Attack Squadron 311, also known as the Tomcats, was named Marine Attack Squadron of the Year by the Marine Corps Aviation Association, April 1.
The Lawson H.M. Sanderson Award recognizes the superior performance of a Marine Attack Squadron; the winner is chosen by the Commandant of the Marine Corps' Aviation Award Board. VMA-311 was presented the award during an awards banquet at the Marine Corps Aviation Association Reunion and Symposium in Reno, Nev., May 18.
"It was great having the Commandant and the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps both show their appreciation towards our squadron. It was a tremendous honor," said Lt. Col. Toby Moore, the commanding officer of VMA-311.
VMA-311 is one of three AV-8B Harrier Squadrons assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, based on Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. Its Mission is to provide offensive air support, armed reconnaissance, and air-defense for Marine expeditionary forces.
"In order to be recognized for something like this, every part of the squadron has to work well and work well together," said Sgt. Maj. David Wilson, the Sergeant Major of VMA-311. "We all need to be giving 110 percent to make the mission happen."
Over the Course of 2013, VMA-311 deployed to Camp Bastion, Afghanistan and provided uninterrupted aviation ground support. The squadron planned, staffed and executed critical projects on tight timelines in unforgiving environments. Later in the year, a detachment of Marines from the squadron were deployed with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and assisted in operations throughout the Pacific theater.
"Much of what this squadron accomplished during their deployment are things I hope these Marines are proud of, and it's great to see that their hard work is appreciated," said Moore, a native of Pendleton Ore.
While being named the Marine Attack Squadron of the Year four times was a great accomplishment for the Tomcats, it was only the latest in the line of many that make up the great history of VMA-311.
Born during the national call-to-arms immediately following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Marine Fighting Squadron 311 was first commissioned on 1 December, 1942, and assigned to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. Since its beginning, VMA-311 has played a significant role in many of America's major battles. From the Battle of Okinawa to the invasion of Iraq, VMA-311 has always been ready to answer the call of duty.
Since VMA-311 has been named Marine Attack Squadron of the Year four times now, the Marines who make up the squadron today certainly feel a sense of pride and recognize the standard that must be upheld.
"Whenever a new Marine checks into the squadron and meets with me, I ask the Marine, 'What do you know about this squadrons history?' and they all have been told multiple times before they get to me that 311 was the 2013 Squadron of the year," said Wilson, a native of Sacramento , Calif. "It's a family here... and I think any squadron that wins this award will always have that sense of camaraderie well before they're awarded."