May 10, 2013

Pre-Deployment: The Black Sheep, Nightmares and Avengers’ military appreciation evening muster

Marines, sailors and family members of Marine Attack Squadron 214, Marine Attack Squadron 211, Marine Attack Squadron 311 and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13 were brought together for a cross-squadron pre-deployment brief and family barbecue at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma’s base chapel courtyard, May 1. The event included a resource fair for Marines and families looking for information on what they can count on from station support groups.

Marines, sailors and family members of Marine Attack Squadron 214, Marine Attack Squadron 211, Marine Attack Squadron 311 and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13 were brought together for a cross-squadron evening barbecue at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma’s base chapel courtyard, May 1.

The deploying squadron is made up of 151 Marines from VMA-214, including 24 Marines attached from MALS-13. They will be embedded with the 31st and 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The military appreciation night barbecue, coordinated and sponsored by MSC Industrial Supply and PROTO Industrial Tools/Stanley Black & Decker, Inc., was combined with the originally planned pre-deployment brief to offer military families a chance to learn about the deployment and resources available as a family instead of apart from each other.

“This event provides information for family members and active duty Marines in a cohesive manner,” said Janet Stewart, the VMA-214 family readiness officer and a native of Palm Springs, Calif. “It allows them to meet their family readiness officer, family team building staff and all the other family resources we have available for them.”

Everyone in attendance welcomed the good time’s atmosphere. Groups of families, friends and old acquaintances got together over drinks, chips, hot dogs, burgers, and double-double burgers. Rockers, chevrons, crossed rifles, and brass took a backseat to the overall sense of camaraderie and trust of a soon-to-deploy squadron.

Also present was the subconscious truth of what a pending deployment will mean for departing Marines, Sailors and their loved ones back home. The responsibilities of a newly married Marine and the toll an indefinite absence can take on their spouse presents tough questions for couples to think about.

“Now I’ve got somebody back home – I’ve got a real reason to get back home,” said Cpl. Jaime Bradford Jose, a VMA-214 ordnance technician who just got back from a deployment with the Black Sheeps 10 or so months ago. “There’s been a lot of planning. Like what we’re going to do with everything we own, where she’s going to stay. Just making sure everything will be OK for her back home.”

Putting a wife or husband, friends and family at ease is something all Marines getting ready to deploy can relate to. Add a child on the way to the mix and Jose, a native of Bay City, Mich., now has that much more to ponder about before shipping.

“We are expecting and we’re due in November, so it’ll make it easier to be around my family instead of being here trying to do it by myself,” said Jose’s wife. “It’s just been very emotional thinking about it – I’ve never been away from him for that long, so.”

A deployment makes for a lot of food for thought. While the grill smoked evening chow, parents kept a close eye on the ones too young to understand the weight the world puts on the minds of today’s service members.

“In my opinion, I think it’s the separation, as well as the elements of the unknown, that is the toughest part,” said Stewart.

To negate some of those unknowns, a resource fair was set up in the courtyard for guests to pick up information, talk to one of the section representatives, learn and hopefully have some of their questions answered. The departments included Family Team Building, the Single Marine Program, Arizona Adventures, the Marine Aircraft Group 13 Chaplain, New Family Support, and Military & Family Life Counselors.

The pre-deployment brief was held in the chapel, with welcoming remarks from VMA-214 commanding officer Lt. Col. Jason Waldron and presentations from Family Team Building director Brooke Burgess, VMA-214 Harrier pilot Capt. John Stuart and VMA-214 Sgt. Maj. Charles Williams.

“In my brief experience as an admin officer, there’s a lot of publications in the Marine Corps and a lot of legal writing that’s tough to make sense – And it takes a decent bit of coordination and collaboration from a lot of different people who’ve been in the Marine Corps a long time to try and condense that information for an 18-year-old lance corporal who may not be able to understand the text of those orders,” said Capt. John Stuart, who spoke on pay/allowances and is a native of Marshall, Va. “Any level of guidance and mentorship just helps them make better decisions – It opens eyes to resources.”

Questions, laughs and trust were had at the event. A great command climate makes for great inter-unit flow among Marines from every rank and file. The work the Black Sheeps will do in the coming months is something everyone at MCAS Yuma can be proud of. A presence and deterrent against the enemy that we’ll all be ready to welcome back when they all come home.

“The fact that I am pregnant and that he’s going to miss about six months of it. That, I think, is the hardest part – That he’s not going to be able to be with me through everything,” said Jose’s wife.

Asked what message she would like to send her husband off with, she answered, “That I love him and to be safe.”


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