Beaufort squadron recognized as Marine Corps' best

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comMarch 23, 2012 

One of Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort's F-18 squadrons will be recognized in May as the Corps' best fighter attack squadron for 2011.

Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533 will receive the Robert M. Hanson Award during a ceremony in Washington, D.C., according to base officials.

The award has been presented each year since 1965 and has been won by a unit from MCAS Beaufort three out of the last four years, according to Corps officials. It was won last year by VMFA-232 from MCAS Miramar, Calif.

Lt. Col. Branden Bailey, the squadron's commanding officer, said he and the unit's 200 Marines were humbled to receive the award.

"We competed with nearly 20 other squadrons within the Marine Corps, but I always knew that my squadron was the best, and I'm happy that my Marines are recognized as such," Bailey said.

The award is named after Marine Capt. Robert M. Hanson, a World War II fighter pilot and Medal of Honor recipient who was shot down over England and killed in 1944.

The local squadron spent much of 2011 preparing for a deployment to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, where it later participated in Exercise Cope Tiger in Khorat, Thailand, alongside infantry Marines, members of the Air Force and fighters from Thailand and Singapore.

The unit also was deployed to Marine Corps Base Twenty-Nine Palms, Calif., for a large-scale training exercise before being sent to Japan, Bailey said.

"Our standard of excellence was constantly challenged during our short turnaround time between deployments and high turnover rate within our squadron, yet we still came out on top," Bailey said. "Marines are constantly asked to do more with less, and my Marines demonstrated their ability to ... achieve a superior level of quality and performance, a level only achieved by one squadron a year."

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