MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122, from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, arrived at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, March 14, 2016.
VMFA-122, also known as the “Werewolves,” is in Iwakuni on a six month rotation with the unit deployment program that deploys units to the Pacific region. The F/A-18C Hornet squadron is replacing VMFA(AW)-224, the “Fighting Bengals,” who returned to MCAS Beaufort.
The Werewolves’ overall mission is to destroy surface targets and enemy aircraft day or night under all weather conditions during expeditionary, joint and combined operations.
“We are here in Iwakuni to augment the forces in the Pacific theater by providing the fixed wing, jet aviation with anti-air-to-ground mission sets to support our commanders plans and objectives,” said Maj. Matthew E. Halbert, executive officer of VMFA-122.
With approximately 200 Marines and approximately 10 F/A-18C aircraft, the squadron is challenged with accomplishing advance qualifications for the air crew and maintenance personnel while exposed to a foreign environment.
“The Pacific is an incredibly important part of the world right now,” said Halbert. “As tensions rise, it’s vital that we are able to respond and support in a timely fashion with the right forces.”
The F/A-18C squadron will conduct contingency, bilateral and multilateral training with their Japanese counterparts and services. Halbert added that practicing with diverse aircraft and foreign forces gathers Marines and real assets together to breed familiarity with tactics, adding a real world atmosphere to make potential operations in the future more seamless and successful.
“This deployment marks the culmination of a year of hard work and training through multiple detachments in order to be a viable combat unit and be prepared to support "The Ready Group's" [Marine Aircraft Group 12] mission in the Western Pacific," said Lt. Col. Derek M. Brannon, commanding officer of VMFA-122.
The Werewolves last visited Iwakuni in 2014, but this new rotation of Marines offers a fresh perspective, opportunities to interact and build a stronger working relationship with the host nation.
"VMFA-122 intends to take advantage of the unique training opportunities Iwakuni offers through the mil-to-mil engagements with our host and partner nation defense forces,” said Brannon. “In addition, Sgt. Maj. Richard Ayala and I want to offer our squadron’s Marines and sailors every opportunity to experience the different cultures that they would otherwise not be able to enjoy stateside.”