Marines ready for arrivals, departures

BEAUFORT -- Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort will be a revolving door for the next month with two squadrons shipping out for deployment and two returning home from tours.

Security rules prevent the air station from releasing return dates, but officials confirmed that the Silver Eagles of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 115 and the Hawks of Marine All-Weather Attack Squadron 533 will be celebrating their respective returns to the Lowcountry in September.

VMFA-115 was deployed to Al Asad, Iraq, this year. VMFA (AW)-533 returns to Beaufort after a tour of duty at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, as part of the Unit Deployment Program.

While the community prepares to welcome home some of its Marines, two other squadrons must prepare to say goodbye.

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122, the Werewolves, and Marine Wing Support Squadron 273, the Sweathogs, are readying themselves and their families for their respective departures to Al Asad, in northern Iraq about 112 miles west of Baghdad, in the coming weeks.

Preparing for deployment is a delicate balance for Marines who must get ready for the months of combat ahead, as well as making sure their homes are in order before shipping out.

"I'd like to say, 'Hey, we're Marines 24/7, and we're always ready to go.' But you can't help but acknowledge what you're getting ready to go do," said Lt. Col. Doug Douds, the unit's commanding officer. "To a small degree, people steel their minds and steel their hearts for the mission that lies ahead. You're taking care of your family on one side, but you're also focusing for the mission at hand.

"You know you're going to be away from your family and friends ... it's going to be hard work, long hours. But at the same time, you're doing all the things that you joined the Marine Corps to do. In that respect, you couldn't be happier to go."

The upcoming deployment to Iraq will be VMFA-122's first combat deployment in more than 30 years, and the first since changing its call sign from the Crusaders to the Werewolves six months ago. The unit was commissioned as the Werewolves in World War II, but had been using Crusaders since the mid-1950s.

The squadron's pilots will leave Beaufort and fly each of the unit's 12 F-18s across the Atlantic Ocean, with the help of two Air Force refueling tankers, stopping off in various European stops before arriving in Iraq.