November 29, 2012

VMFA-121 now calls MCAS Yuma home

Photos by Cpl. Shelby Shields

3rd Marine Aircraft Wing welcomed its first F-35B squadron during an official ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., Nov. 20 at 1 p.m. During the ceremony Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 121, formerly an F/A-18 Hornet squadron, re-designated as the Corps’ first operational F-35 squadron, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121. The squadron also received its second aircraft at the end of the ceremony, BF-20, and its third F-35B, BF-21, later the same day. The arrival of the F-35B Lightening II, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter, to Yuma signifies the Marine Corps’ forward progress in transitioning the F-35 from a testing and training aircraft to a fully operational tactical aviation capability. Hundreds of senior military, civic and industry leaders attended the ceremony to mark the next generation of tactical aviation dominance in the Marine Corps to include Arizona Senator John McCain, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, the Under Secretary of the Navy Honorable Mr. Robert Work and the Commandant of the Marine Corps General James Amos. “Today marks the beginning of Joint Strike Fighters flying over the skies of Arizona for perhaps the next 50 years,” stated Arizona Senator John McCain during the ceremony. “That’s another 50 years for the city of Yuma, and the state of Arizona to do their part to help ensure this great nation remains strong and secure.” Lt. Col. Jeffrey Scott, native of San Fremont, Calif. and formerly an AV-8B Harrier pilot, is the new commanding officer of VMFA-121 and is joined by Sgt. Maj. Carlos Williams, native of Beaufort, S.C., as the squadron’s first sergeant major. Both Marines were hand selected to lead the Marine Corps’ first operational F-35 squadron towards revolutionizing expeditionary Marine air-ground combat power in all threat environments. The squadron will be home to approximately 300 Marines and is expected to receive additional F-35s throughout the next 8 to 12 months, with a total of 16 aircraft scheduled to arrive by late 2013.

Third Marine Aircraft wing welcomed its first F-35 squadron during a re-designation ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma for Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 on Nov. 20. The ceremony transitioned the squadron from an F/A-18 Hornet squadron to VMFA-121, the Marine Corps first operational F-35 squadron. As the premiere aviation training facility in the Marine Corps, the basing of the Corps’ first operational squadron in Yuma solidifies the future of Marine tactical aviation training in Southern Arizona. Today’s ceremony marks an important milestone for the Marine Corps and the Department of Defense as the F-35 progresses from a testing and training aircraft towards full-scale tactical aviation operations.

Left, Sergeant Maj. Carlos Williams, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 sergeant major, and right, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Scott, VMFA-121 commanding officer, unfurl the VMFA-121 colors during the squadron re-designation ceremony Nov. 20 at the VMFA-121 hangar, Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. Special guests Senator John McCain, Arizona state Senator; Governor Janice K. Brewer, Arizona state Governor; The Honorable Mr. Robert O. Work, Under Secretary of the Navy, and General James F. Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, were in attendance for the ceremony and spoke of the great contribution to Marine Corps aviation.

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