Marine Aviators Deploy for Iraq - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

07/25/05

Marine Aviators Deploy for Iraq

Members of the Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 3-32, along with some Marines from the Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31, left early this morning for their tour of duty in Iraq at camp Al Asad. More than 200 deployed, and for some, this is their first time overseas.

Marines took advantage of their last few hours with their friends and family before deploying for a seven-month tour of duty.

Elise Blakes' family and friends came in from all over the country to say their goodbyes. Blakes

"It means a lot to know they're supporting me and that they're here," she said.

This is the squadron's first deployment to Iraq, and the first for many of the Marines.

"Just having an opportunity to go over there, I'm really proud of that and fortunate to have the opportunity," said Cpl. Phillip Stith.

"The reason I'm here is to help get there and support the Marines on the ground, who have it a lot harder than we do," said Maj. Richard Schilke. "They're carrying out a tougher mission."

But it's a time of mixed emotions for many of these Marines.

"I'm not very excited about leaving my wife, but I'm very excited about doing my duties as a Marine and doing what I get paid to do in Iraq," said Cpl. Stith.

And deploying can be difficult, especially for Lance Cpl. Stuart Hardy and his wife, who are expecting their first child in a month. "It's hard, because you'd like to be there for the birth of your child, but this is my job," he said. "This is what we do."

But the Hardys have a plan in place. "She's going to take some pictures and send them to me," Lance Cpl. Hardy. "So I'll see her."

"Lots of pictures," said his wife, Nicole.

The Moonlighters will be replacing Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 2-24. They've been in Iraq since January.

Reported by: Jaime Dailey, jdailey@wtoc.com

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