VMA-542 Returns From Iraq Deployment
Marine Attack Squadron 542 returned Nov. 20 from a six-month
tour in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II.
Their mission was to provide close air support to Marines on the
ground in the vicinity of Fallujah and Ramadi, Iraq. The squadron
flew approximately 150 sorties a week with their AV-8B Harriers.
Their support of Marines on the ground was vital to their
Capt. Sam Schoolfield, safety officer with VMA-542, said the
VMA-542 pilots and mechanics did their job well.
"The pilots deployed precision guided bombs, such as the laser
guided Mavericks, against the Iraqi insurgents," he said.
The most challenging task for the Marines of VMA-542 was the
constant support they gave to the Marines on the ground and the
constant maintenance that was required to keep the planes
"We operated mostly at night," said Schoolfield. "This meant
that the Marines who worked on the planes had to endure intense
sweltering heat during the daytime in order to maintain the
Schoolfield attributed much of the squadron's success to the
work non-commissioned officers did in managing and taking care of
"Most of the Marines were already in their second deployment,"
said Schoolfield. "Because of their experience, they executed the
missions with great success. Thankfully, we had no mishaps or
safety (issues) to speak of, and I'm proud of that."
The maintenance crew is
a vital part of the squadron. Their effort in getting the planes in
the air was critical to VMA-542's success. The crew worked seven
days a weak in blistering heat for hours at a time in order to
ensure the mission was accomplished.
"We definitely accomplished our mission," said Staff Sgt. James
Reaves, administrative chief. "The maintenance crew did an
excellent job and pulled together. We made sure the jets were fully
operational and got the job done."
Every Marine in the squadron did their part and ensured they
were able to return home to see their friends and families.
"It feels great to be back," said Gunnery Sgt. Donald Hodge,
quality assurance chief for VMA-542. "It was a team effort and our
overall performance in doing our jobs was great."
Lt. Col. Don Sterling had a special surprise waiting for him on
the flightline. His newborn son, who is only a few weeks old, and
his wife were there to see him.
"I remember descending and seeing Cherry Point for the first
time was intense," Said Sterling. "Knowing that my wife and son
were waiting for me to come home was a great feeling."