MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan --
Since World War II, Marine Attack Squadron 513 conducted operations in the Pacific. After 69 years since their activation, the "Flying Nightmares" took their last flights out of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, May 24, 2013.
VMA-513 flew their fleet of six AV-8B Harrier II aircraft to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan, before the unit heads back to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., for its decommissioning July 13, 2013.
“The point here is that we are ending a true warfighting legacy,” said Lt. Col. Samuel Smith, VMA-513 commanding officer. “It’s sad that we are wrapping that up, but I think we’re doing it in the right way.”
Smith also touched on how the unit’s final deployment would be in the same place the unit initially activated in 1944.
For the squadron’s last deployment, they performed to their highest capability in the last six months in Japan.
"We've been able to put out more than 1,000 hours and 550 sorties, which if you look at historically, is quite an achievement for such a small unit," said Smith. "VMA-513 has set the bar very high on what a Harrier unit can accomplish out here."
Most Unit Deployment Program squadrons take their aircraft back to their original station. For VMA-513, they had a different plan.
"In the past, we have often left the Harriers here for a period of a year just to make it easier, so we don't have to bring them across the Pacific every time we rotate units," said Smith. "In this particular case, our sister squadron, VMA-214 ‘Black Sheep,’ will be coming to relieve us and we will leave these jets here for them."
After the aircraft are changed over to VMA-214, the “Black Sheep” will continue to use the aircraft for years to come.
Leaving behind the aircraft also means leaving behind a rich history of what the Nightmares accomplished.
“This squadron has a lot of history behind it,” said Staff Sgt. Andrew Carrigan, VMA-513 air frame mechanic. “We were the first squadron able to drop bombs at night using radar systems.”
According to Maj. Andrew P. Diviney, VMA-513 executive officer, all the Marines with the squadron will either transfer to other Harrier units or to F-35 units. For some servicemembers, the bond between Marines and the squadron itself is something to hold on to.
“Unfortunately, with it being the second to youngest squadron, someone has to go at some point and time,” said Carrigan. “I don’t want see it go. I’ve had a great time, a lot of good memories and a lot of friendships have been made here.”