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Old 10-19-2006, 05:24 PM
GyBill GyBill is offline
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Top Marines Visit Thunderbolts

Top Marines Visit Thunderbolts

Marine Corps News | Lcpl. Nikki M. Fleming | October 18, 2006

Al Asad, Iraq - The morning began just as any other day for the Marines of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251, Carrier Air Wing One, Carrier Strike Group Twelve, until they were surprised by an unexpected visit.

Gen. Michael W. Hagee, commandant of the Marine Corps, accompanied by Sgt. Maj. John E. Estrada, sergeant major of the Marine Corps, made an unplanned visit to VMFA-251 during their stay at Al Asad, Iraq, Oct. 1.

"It was an interesting event, not so much that they were here on the air base, but more in the sense that they came out on a special visit," said Cpl. Jose Paez, personnel clerk, VMFA-251. "We were visited because they wanted to visit us. This wasn't routine by any means, which made their visit a momentous occasion for the Thunderbolts."

The visit allowed the Marines and Sailors the chance to see their commandant and sergeant major up close and ask questions, according to Lt. Col. Michael Orr, commanding officer, VMFA-251.

"I think it was a very exciting opportunity for the Thunderbolts to meet their leadership in person and get a chance to show what the squadron is all about," said Orr.

The commandant commented on the Thunderbolts' current deployment and its significance.

"(General Hagee) noted that our squadron's mission is an important contribution to the overall effort in Iraq," said Orr.

For many, the commandant's visit and words were uplifting and an inspiration, according to Lance Cpl. Matthew Randall, logistics/embarkation and combat service support specialist, VMFA-251.

"It was a great opportunity to be able to meet great leaders," said Randall. "Their visit, planned or not, just shows the Marines the difference we are making within our Marine Corps."

Randall also expressed his opinion about having the commandant and sergeant major speak directly to the Marines about their mission.

"It's not everyday the commandant and Marine Corps sergeant major will take time out of their day to meet with Marines and tell them how proud they are of their performance," said Randall. "Although we hear from our own commanding officer how well we are doing, them telling us from their own mouths made our deployment."

Estrada, a former Thunderbolt fixed-wing aircraft airframes mechanic, took the opportunity to return to his old squadron and see the progress it has made.

"It was motivating, especially seeing the sergeant major and, knowing he was once part of this same squadron," said Randall. "Sergeant Major Estrada is a prime example for the Marines in the squadron to see what may lay ahead for them."

According to Orr, Estrada said he was pleased with the quality of the Marines he met while he was at the squadron.
Just like any leader, Orr was proud to have the opportunity to show off his unit.

"It is always a great opportunity to demonstrate the capabilities of the squadron and the high quality of the people that make the Thunderbolts work," said Orr. "We were able to demonstrate the unique contribution (our squadron) makes to Carrier Air Wing One and the Enterprise Strike Group in support of the global war on terrorism."
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Old 10-20-2006, 07:24 PM
keithstruthers keithstruthers is offline
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This brings back some great memories. I had the honor of serving with the Thnderbolts back in 1975 at MCAS, Beuafort, S.C.
I wasn't with them very long as I was transferred to MAG-31 Group Headquarters (H&MS-31) for a time. I then was transferred to VMFA-312 "Checkboards". I have a lot of very good memories of all of us keeping the old F-4 Phantoms flying. Good luck and Godspeed to all and above all I Thank You.
Keith Struthers
SGT, 1974 to 1978
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