Once a week the Marine Attack Squadron 311 commanding officer gathers his Marines and shares a piece of the Tomcat history, a tradition carried on by past, present and future VMA-311 leadership. VMA-311 holds an extreme amount of pride in knowing and preserving their squadronâ€™s legacy.
â€œSome units post their one page history up on the wall and thatâ€™s about all you get. Not here at VMA-311,â€ said Sgt. Maj. David Wilson, the VMA-311 sergeant major and very new to the squadron. â€œIâ€™ve only been here since last week but I can already tell you that every Tomcat you run into can and wants to give you a piece of this history.â€
Photos, newspaper clippings and lineage of former Tomcats line the walls of the VMA- 311 squadron.
Wilson, who spent most of his 18 years serving with the infantry, has had no trouble transitioning from grunt life to aviation.
â€œThe things that make Marines; hard work, dignity, dedication and mission accomplishment, are the same across the board,â€ said Wilson, a Sacramento, Calif., native. â€œThere are far more similarities than differences and these Marines here at VMA-311 are fantastic, some of the best in the Corps.â€
Originally called the Fighting 311 Hells Bells, the squadron has a unique story of how they came to be now known as the Tomcats.
â€œFrom what I understand, it was politically incorrect for us to have a naked woman on our patch,â€ said Wilson with a laugh. â€œIf you look closely at our current Tomcats patch youâ€™ll see that she still rides with us to this day.â€
The squadron switched over to the Tomcats sometime between World War II and the Korean War.
VMA-311 also boasts a rich history of celebrity Tomcats including John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth in space, and Ted Williams, base ball hall of famer.
â€œThose are some of the first historical facts I learned when I got here,â€ said Wilson. â€œThe Marines are very proud of the Tomcats who came before them.â€
A story about Ted Williamsâ€™ adoration for his old squadron and Corps really stood out for Wilson. Itâ€™s said that Williams was showing a young boy his memorabilia room, full of baseball photos, trophies and awards, at his familyâ€™s home when the young boy asked â€œisnâ€™t that the Marine Corps insignia on the floor?â€ The young man was pointing to a rug on the floor which displayed the Marine Corps Eagle, Globe and Anchor.
Ted Williams proudly responded with â€œyea kid, thatâ€™s the best team I ever played for.â€
â€œAfter all his years of baseball fame for him to recognize the Marine Corps as the best team just really hit home for me,â€ added Wilson. â€œItâ€™s no wonder the Marines here are so proud, it seems they always have been.â€
Wilson, who only recently took charge of the more than 250 Marines with VMA-311 marveled at their hard work ethic and matched morale.
â€œThereâ€™s units that work hard. Thereâ€™s units that have high morale. But for a unit to work as hard as this one does and keep morale as high as they do isnâ€™t heard of often,â€ Wilson said admiringly.
The new VMA-311 sergeant major is looking forward to working with and learning more about the rich history accompanying the squadron and encourages all Marines to take the time to learn a little about where they came from.