Marine Aviators Deploy to Japan

While some troops are coming home, others are leaving. A dozen Marine fighter jets streaked out of the Low Country today on a 16-hour trip across the Pacific. Twenty-four Marines from the All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224 are leaving the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort for one in Japan.

"We hate to see him go, but we're awfully proud of him and looking forward to seeing him again," said Lee Skipper, whose son is among the Marines aviators.

The Bengals of 224 are relieving Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122, which had been stuck in Japan for six months longer than they were supposed to be.

"Those guys are our brothers," said Capt. Brad Hipp. "We want to get over there and get them home as quickly as possible. It's been real tough on them and their families."

The 24 Marines leaving today should get to Japan some time tomorrow afternoon, and the other 200 members of their squadron plan to leave on Sunday. Because of the scattered departure times, and a one-day delay, many of the people at today's fly-off weren't there to say goodbye to husbands or fathers, but just wanted to support those who were.

"The wife club is great," said Marine wife Caroline Dalton. "They all support each other, they call and get together and just hang out and they're there for us the whole time."

"It's hard leaving your wife again, second day saying goodbye," said Dennis Dalton, Caroline's husband. "But, once we cross the line, get in the cockpit, we leave all that behind, get airborne and get going with the job."

Fighter Attack Squadron 122 is due back in Beaufort some time next week, ending its year-long deployment.

Reported by: Chris Cowperthwaite,