Marines with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 232 “Red Devils” returned to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, after a six-month deployment at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, Sept. 15.
The deployment was part of the unit deployment program (UDP), a system designed to identify units for deployments in order to reduce unaccompanied tours and improve unit continuity.
The Red Devils have a long history of supporting operations and missions ranging from the Pacific Northwest and Western Pacific (WestPac) regions to Southeast Asia. In October 1977, after returning from flying combat missions in Vietnam, the squadron began participating in WestPac UDPs.
Since then, VMFA-232 had completed numerous rotations to MCAS Iwakuni where both pilots and maintainers trained to execute tactics, techniques and procedures during exercises as they would in a combat environment, explained Lt. Col. Douglas R. Miller, commanding officer of VMFA-232.
In April, the beginning of their deployment, VMFA-232 supported exercise Northern Edge, a U.S. Pacific Command-sponsored exercise, which prepares joint forces to respond to crises in the Indo-Asia Pacific region. The exercise is designed to sharpen participants’ tactical combat skills, improve command, control and communication relationships, and to develop interoperable plans and programs across a joint force. VMFA-232’s role was to provide offensive air-support to joint forces at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
In July, the squadron completed training as part of the Aviation Training Relocation program at Japan Air Self-Defense Force Hyakuri Air Base, Japan — which was a 14-day evolution to increase operational readiness and interoperability between U.S. and Japanese forces.
“The main mission was to train and prepare for combat,” said Miller. “We did a wide variety of training including air-to-air training with our Japanese Air Self-Defense Force counterparts and multiple training exercises in the Pacific Command area of responsibility.”
Most recently, the Red Devils participated in exercise Lava Viper 17-2 at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, by providing air-to-ground support.
“We [also] did a lot of air-to-air and air-to-ground training with VMFA-121, which allowed us to integrate exercises with the [F-35B Lightning II] and our jets,” said Capt. Michael Frazer, an F/A-18 Hornet pilot with VMFA-232.
This deployment gave Marines with VMFA-232 the opportunity to train with various squadrons and gain experience in their military occupation specialty, added Frazer.
“It’s been a challenging six months,” said Miller. “The squadron has flown over 20,000 miles, cumulatively, supporting assets across the area of responsibility, the ‘Red Devils’ are home and we’ve served our country well.”
VMFA-232 is the Marine Corps’ oldest fighter attack squadron and was established Sept. 1, 1925. The squadron is more than 93 years old and is the most decorated Marine fighter attack squadron with the following awards: Presidential Unit Citation streamer, Navy Unit Commendation streamer, National Defense Service streamer with three Bronze Stars, Vietnam Service streamer, Iraq Campaign streamer, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary streamer and the Global War on Terrorism Service streamer.
Story by Cpl. Jake McClung