Werewolves depart Alaska, wrap up Distant Frontier, UDP with MAG-12
EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122 completed Exercise Distant Frontier, Sept. 12 2014, when their F/A-18C Hornets lifted off one final time from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.
Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122, nicknamed the “Werewolves,” conducted unit level training and flew with Air Force squadrons to enhance interoperability between services and set the tone for future unit deployment program squadrons that may come to Alaska during their time in the Pacific.
“We were an experiment to see if the range structure and support available were worthwhile to continue to pursue this as a training venue and my recommendation is absolutely,” said Lt. Col. Douglas DeWolfe, commanding officer of VMFA-122. “We participated in a handful of large force exercises with the 80th Fighter Squadron here. That is where the true lessons learned will go into the after action report, which will help our follow on UDP participants when they go to the peninsula (Korea) to participate in Foal Eagle or Max Thunder and allow them to be more successful.”
With the completion of Exercise Distant Frontier, the Werewolves headed back to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S. C., concluding a six-month UDP, in which the squadron travelled throughout the Pacific region participating in joint service exercises and ULTs while attached to MAG-12, stationed aboard Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan.
One of those exercises was Rim of the Pacific 2014, which is the world’s largest international maritime exercise with 22 nations involved. The squadron conducted close air support for Special Marine Ground Task Force III during the training evolution.
“The Marines represented the Marine Corps well, we are ambassadors for the Marine Corps, we have been to a couple different countries, different locations, and dealt with different services,” said Sgt.Maj. Matthew Putnam, sergeant major of VMFA-122. “The Marines, in each case, have done what they needed to do in order to further the Marine Corps’ reputation.”
The squadron conducted more than 1,000 sorties and 1,700 flight hours, a tempo that was maintained while flying in various weather conditions in Japan, Korea, Hawaii and Alaska.
“The biggest accomplishment was being able to execute every mission set we were asked to execute, in relatively austere conditions compared to remaining in Iwakuni,” said DeWolfe. “That required a lot of hard work from the Marines and sailors in both headquarters and maintenance. The Marines and sailors did everything that was required in order to ensure we were successful in each venue.”
Many service members took advantage of the vacation locations on the deployment, but also used that time to make the squadron better.
“My favorite place was Hawaii,” said Sgt. Ryan Bentley, an F/A-18 mechanic with VMFA-122. “There was warm weather and the beaches, but I was also able to pass on a lot of my knowledge I’ve learned over the last five years to my junior Marines.”
According to DeWolfe, the squadron mainly includes young service members and this was a great opportunity for them to learn and grow, which will be valuable as the squadron is set to rotate back to the Pacific region next year.
“The thing I will remember more than anything else is watching young Marines and sailors stepping up to fill billets that were well above their pay grade,” said DeWolfe. “We had a lot of young ones that stepped up and absolutely knocked it out of the park, that was the most rewarding part to me. To just watch the young Marines out there as they grew as maintainers as well as leaders.”