June 21, 2012

5 Questions: VMA-311 Commanding Officer

Lt. Col. Peter Blake
VMA-311 Commanding Officer

1. VMA-311 “Tomcats” just returned from a six month deployment in support of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit based out of Japan.  Can you share some of the operational highlights of the squadron’s deployment?

The “Japan” Tomcats supported both the 31st MEU and MAG-12 depending on our location. While on Kadena AB, Okinawa and aboard the USS Essex we supported the MEU; while on MCAS Iwakuni, Japan we supported MAG-12. During our time with the MEU we flew numerous close air support training missions to rehearse procedures with forward air controllers from the MEU, 5th ANGLICO and USAF Combat Controllers. We also trained with the USAF F-15s aboard Kadena AB to practice tactics for integrated strike missions. While in Iwakuni, we did air-to-air training with Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornets and Japanese F-4 Phantoms and F-15J Eagles.


2. Did VMA-311 participate in any international training exercises? If so, where were they located and how did this training improve the capabilities of your squadron?

While aboard the Essex we supported the MEU and South Korean Marines during Exercise SSANG YONG, an amphibious landing near the city of Pohang, South Korea. We also flew maritime reconnaissance training missions to detect and identify ships for the US and South Korean Navies. While in Iwakuni we flew air-to-air training sorties with the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force. All of these training events helped us develop and rehearse integrated tactics with allied pilots, air traffic controllers and intelligence officers.


3. Now that the squadron is back in Yuma, what are the future operational and training plans for the Tomcats?

In September a six-plane detachment will deploy aboard the USS Peleliu in support of the 15th MEU. The remaining Marines of the Squadron will continue training for a scheduled deployment to Afghanistan in 2013.


4. As you prepare for your change of command on June 22, are there any words of wisdom you would like to pass on to your troops?

Guard and cherish your reputation and Marines and Tomcats – accomplish the mission and always maintain your character, both on and off duty.


5. What’s next after VMA-311?

I will stay at MAG-13 for another year to work on AV-8B and F-35 issues.

Lt. Col. Peter Blake is scheduled to relinquish command of Marine Attack Squadron 311 to Lt. Col. Scott Mitchell on June 22 at the squadron’s hangar.

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