Black Sheep, Widows deploy with 13th MEU
Story by Cpl. M. Daniel Sanchez

More than 100 Yuma Marines and six AV-8B Harriers left for San Diego Jan. 7-8 to join the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the USS Boxer for the next six to eight months.

The Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13 and Marine Attack Squadron 214 Marines will work alongside Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 in supporting the 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment.

Specifically, the squadron will provide close-air support for the battalion, as well as aid in humanitarian and training missions, said Lt. Col. Eric Schaeffer, VMA-214 commanding officer.

Hours before the busses arrived to take the Marines to California, co-workers, friends and family said their farewells to their Marines.

One mother in particular was saying goodbye to her third child to deploy in the past three months.

Lori Young is the mother of Cpl. David Young, a VMA-214 ordnance technician, a daughter who deployed in November and a son-in-law working as a contractor in Iraq.

"This has been a hard year," she said.

Deployments don't really get easier to deal with, however, the support from the Marine Corps has been great, said Lori.

"Phone calls help," she added.

The day wasn't all teary farewells, as some Marines were excited to see the world and ready to do what they have been trained for.

"The best part of (being on a MEU) is experiencing the cultures of other countries," said Staff Sgt. Virgil Wyaco, MALS-13 detachment chief.

When else can Marines travel to several countries in only six months, said Wyaco.

Being on a MEU also provides the Marines with opportunities to work on different types and models of aircraft and gain new certifications, said Gunnery Sgt. James Grace, VMA-214 detachment chief.

Although VMA-214 has its fair share of deployment experience, most recently leaving with the 31st MEU in 2007, Schaeffer knows it takes more than just experience to accomplish the mission.

"The most critical element of success is the role of the individual Marine," said Schaffer.

"Everything revolves around flexibility and good planning," added Sgt. Maj. Derek Fry, VMA-214 senior enlisted advisor. "Motivation will help the deployment go faster and keep each other going."

VMA-214 is best known as the Black Sheep of World War II and also for former commanding officer Col. Gregory "Pappy" Boyington's actions during that time. The squadron was commissioned July 1, 1942, at Marine Corps Air Station Ewa in Oahu, Hawaii, and has participated in every major military campaign since then.

The 13th MEU is scheduled to sail throughout the West Pacific and make stops in Hawaii, Guam and Thailand.