MCAS Beaufort was originally opened as Naval Air Station Beaufort in 1943 during WWII. At the conclusion of the war, it was deactivated. However, in January 1955, it was activated as Marine Corps Auxiliary Airfield. The area was redesignated as a Marine Corps Auxiliary Air Station in June 1956. On March 1, 1960, the auxiliary air station was redesignated a Marine Corps Air Station. The airfield at MCAS Beaufort was named Merritt Field in honor of Maj. Gen. Lewie Merritt, USMC (retired), on Sept. 19, 1975. Merritt was famous for fighting in the battle of Belleau Wood in WWI and flying combat missions in WWII.
Personnel assigned to MCAS Beaufort, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron operate the facilities that provide a home and base of operations to Fleet Marine Force (FMF) tenant units of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing and 2nd Marine Logistics Group. Marine Aircraft Group 31 is the primary tenant command and consists of seven fighter attack squadrons, which fly and maintain all active-duty East Coast Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornets, an F-35B Fleet Replacement Squadron and includes Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31 (MALS-31).
The military population of Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron is approximately 700 Marine and Navy personnel. Their mission is to provide a total quality environment to enhance all tenant activities in the accomplishment of their assigned missions. This includes operating support aircraft, ensuring environmentally sound facilities and practices, providing quality services while utilizing available resources, nurturing quality-of-life programs and conducting proactive community relations.
The awards presented to Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, Marine Corps Air Station, Beaufort, include the Meritorious Unit Commendation Streamer and the National Defense Service Streamer with one bronze star.
Combat Logistics Company 23 “Roughnecks”
Combat Logistics Company 23 was activated as Combat Service Support Detachment 23 (CSSD-23), Detachment “B,” 2nd Force Service Support Group, on Nov. 26, 1976, to support FMF Atlantic units at MCAS Beaufort. The name change from CSSD-23 to Combat Logistics Company 23 (CLC-23) was made official in April 2005. The change came as part of a sweeping transformation of FSSGs to support current and future warfighting requirements more effectively. The unit will be referred to as CSSD-23 in portions of its history.
CLC-23 consists of an intermediate Maintenance shop, Supply section, Information Systems Management Officer and Medical section.
The primary mission of Detachment “B” was third-echelon maintenance support on tactical motor transport and engineer equipment.
From April 10 to 14, 1978, the detachment participated in its first major support operation, “Operation Night Owl.” General Support Unit personnel were assigned to 2d FSSG Detachment “B” to support ADPE-FMF operations at MCAS Beaufort on May 4, 1981.
Over several months from 1984 to 1985, Detachment “B” supported the Marines in Lebanon and naval personnel on ships by deploying Marines from various ships within the unit with skills ranging from heavy equipment operators and mechanics to computer programmers.
On July 22, 1987, Detachment “B” was redesignated as Combat Service Support Detachment Two-Three.
In 1990, the detachment provided a contact team to support Marine Wing Support Squadron 273 during movement to Florida in support of Operation Desert Shield. In June 1991, an additional 13 Marines deployed to Southwest Asia as part of Combat Service Support Element, Military Prepositioning Force Reconstitution.
From 1994 to 1995, members of CSSD-23 augmented Joint Task Force 160 in Operation Sea Signal in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. JTF-160 took care of the significant migration of Haitians and Cubans, which required significant humanitarian assistance and security on Naval Station Guantanamo Bay.
In December 2001, the Commanding General, 2d Force Service Support Group, approved a new detachment logo, one more descriptive of the maintenance mission of the now-Roughnecks; it displayed an F/A-18 Hornet to illustrate the detachment’s direct role in keeping MAG-31 flying by helping to ensure MWWS-273’s ground equipment is up and running.
In January 2002, 41 Marines and Sailors were deployed to support Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom I.
In December 2002, Combat Service Support Detachment 23 increased its capability by assuming the third-echelon maintenance of small arms, as well as establishing the Combat Service Support Detachment 23 ATLASS II help desk in support of all II MEF units at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.
From 2003 to 2004, elements of CSSD-23 participated in support of the Global War on Terrorism, Horn of Africa. Also in 2004, elements were part of the support for Operation Secure Tomorrow, in Haiti.
Today, Roughnecks from CLC-23 continue to support individual augment requirements in the Global War on Terrorism, while those at MCAS Beaufort continue to provide critical backing to the units stationed here.
Marine Aircraft Group 31
Marine Aircraft Group 31 (MAG-31) was commissioned at Cherry Point, North Carolina, in February 1943. From October 1943 to Oct. 12, 1945, the group operated throughout the Pacific Area and played an integral part in the battle for Okinawa. After the seizure of Okinawa, MAG-31 squadrons continued their part in the war, conducting operations from Yontan Airfield on the island. While on Okinawa, MAG-31 was commanded by Col. John C. Munn, later a lieutenant general and assistant commandant of the Marine Corps.
On Oct. 12, 1945, the group left Okinawa for Yokosuka, Japan, becoming the first Marine land-based group to operate in the Japanese homeland. The group was transferred from the 2nd MAW to the 4th MAW on Feb. 12, 1946, and then to the Fleet Marine Force Pacific on March 13, 1946.
The group returned to the United States on July 5, 1946, and was stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station, Miramar, San Diego, until its decommission on May 31, 1947.
MAG-31 was reactivated on March 17, 1952, at Cherry Point and transferred to Marine Corps Air Station, Miami, operating as a part of the 3rd MAW until it was again decommissioned in 1958.
On Nov. 1, 1961, MAG-31 was reactivated once more and stationed at its present home, Marine Corps Air Station, Beaufort, South Carolina, as part of the 2nd MAW.
The mission of MAG-31 is to conduct anti-air warfare and offensive air support operations to support Fleet Marine Forces from advance bases, expeditionary airfields and aircraft carriers, and to conduct such other air operations as may be directed.
The MAG currently operates at a high tempo supporting Enduring Freedom and the Unit Deployment Program in the Pacific.
Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31 “Stingers”
On Feb. 1, 1943, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31, along with Marine Aircraft Group 31, Headquarters Squadron 31, was at Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, North Carolina, as an element of the 3rd Aircraft Wing, Fleet Marine Force.
Between April 7 and Aug. 15, 1945, personnel from Headquarters Squadron 31 supported tactical aircrews of MAG-31 who flew 38,187 hours and shot down 191 enemy planes. Multiple missions were flown over Okinawa, southern Kyushu, the China coast and more than a dozen enemy-held islands between Formosa and Kyushu. By the end of the Ryukyus Campaign, MAG-31 units had moved from Yontan to Chimu on Okinawa.
On Oct. 12, 1945, Headquarters Squadron 31 left Okinawa for the Marine Air Base at Yokosuka, Japan, as MAG-31 became the first Marine land-based air group to operate on the Japanese homeland. By July 1946, MAG-31 and its elements were operating out of the Marine Corps Air Station, Miramar, California, where they remained until deactivation on May 31, 1947.
Headquarters Squadron 31 was reactivated at MCAS Cherry Point on March 17, 1952, and moved to MCAS Miami. On Feb. 15, 1954, Headquarters Squadron 31 was redesignated Headquarters and Maintenance Squadron 31.
Headquarters and Maintenance Squadron 31 was redesignated on Aug. 22, 1958, as it became part of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, AirFMFLant. The squadron, along with the group, was reduced to cadre status and moved to Cherry Point. Within three years, the squadron returned to full operational status.
After reactivation on Nov. 1, 1961, Headquarters and Maintenance Squadron 31 was re-established at MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina. Personnel provided logistical and administrative support to MAG-31 units and augmented deployed tactical squadrons. Additionally, the squadron provided proficiency training for attached pilots with C-117D and T-1A aircraft.
During November 1968, members of the squadron were awarded the Commanding General, FMFLANT Aviation Safety Award for supporting 2,029 mishap-free hours of flight. In the ensuing 20-year period, Headquarters and Maintenance Squadron 31 participated in a multitude of training and deployment exercises in support of MAG 31 flying squadrons. Throughout the decades, the squadron focused on sustaining readiness, enhancing combat capabilities and providing around-the-clock logistics support.
On Oct. 1, 1988, Headquarters and Maintenance Squadron 31 was redesignated Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31 (MALS-31), and in 1990, it successfully completed the transition of its aviation logistics support mission from the F-4 Phantom to the F/A-18 Hornet.
In 2013, two detachments from the squadron deployed in support of operations overseas. During this period, the detachments served with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251 aboard the USS Enterprise (CVN-65), Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533 in the Western Pacific, and with MALS-40 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Since its establishment, the Marines and Sailors of MALS-31 have provided ongoing support wherever MAG-31 squadrons are deployed — stateside and abroad, from land and from sea — including Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm; Operations Deny Flight, Joint Endeavor, and Decisive Edge in Bosnia; Operations Noble Anvil, Allied Force and Joint Guardian in Serbia and Kosovo; Operation Enduring Freedom onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71); and Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq as well as onboard the USS Truman (CVN-75).
VMFA-115 “Silver Eagles”
Marine Fighter Squadron 115 was organized on July 1, 1943, at Santa Barbara, California, under the command of Maj. John S. MacLaughlin. Sixteen days later, the command was assumed by one of the Marine Corps’ most famous Aces, Maj. Joseph Foss, holder of a Marine Corps World War II record of 26 enemy aircraft shot down, and the squadron quickly picked up the nickname “Joe’s Jokers.” In May 1944, the squadron joined the Pacific campaign, flying the legendary F4U-1 Corsair.
At the conclusion of World War II, the squadron deployed to what was then Peking, China, to protect U.S. interests and support III Marine Amphibious Corps supervising the surrender and repatriation of 630,000 Japanese troops and civilians in North China.
In December 1949, VMF-115 became the first Marine Corps squadron to receive a full complement of Grumman F9F-2 Panther jet fighters and during November 1950, was the first to serve aboard a carrier, qualifying all 18 pilots without incident aboard the USS Roosevelt.
In spring 1957, the squadron received the Marine Corps’ first F-40 Skyrays and was designated VMF (AW)-115. After flying Skyrays longer than any other squadron, VMF (AW)-115 was redesignated VMFA-115 on Jan. 1, 1964, and transitioned to the Mach II-capable F-4B Phantom II.
The “Able Eagles” were deployed to Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam, on Oct. 14, 1965.
During the Vietnam War, VMFA-115 flew more than 34,000 combat sorties, at a cost of 14 aircraft lost, 21 aircrew killed in action and six Marines killed in action while participating in such battles as the Tet Offensive, Hue City, Khe Sanh and Task Force Delta.
In July 1977, VMFA-115 relocated to 2nd MAW, MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina.
After flying Phantoms for more than 20 years, VMFA-115 began the transition to the F/A-18A Hornet on Jan. 1, 1985, and officially stood up with 14 aircraft on Aug. 16, 1985. The following year, the squadron became officially known as the “Silver Eagles.”
VMFA-115 returned to the Philippines and supported government forces during a coup attempt in 1989, flying armed CAP and escort missions until the situation stabilized.
During the years from 1991 to 2000, the Silver Eagles participated in the Unit Deployment Program (UDP) in the Western Pacific for six-month deployments in support of 1st MAW. Upon completion of their 2000 UDP, the Silver Eagles began the transition from F/A-18As to the updated F/A 18A s. As of spring 2001, VMFA-115 was designated a carrier integration squadron. The Marines of VMFA-115 deployed aboard the USS Truman as part of Carrier Air Wing 3 in the fall of 2002; this was the first carrier deployment for the Silver Eagles since 1981, when they flew F-4s. This deployment was in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and during it the squadron expended more than 150 tons of ordnance. In 2013, the Silver Eagles deployed to the Middle East to promote security in the region from March to September.
The Silver Eagles returned from a seven-month deployment aboard Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, in September 2008, where they supported Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In 2009, 2011 and 2014, VMFA-115 deployed to the Western Pacific in support of the Unit Deployment Program, participating in multinational exercises and international joint training operations to strengthen alliances with countries throughout the region. In 2013, VMFA-115 deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The illustrious history of Marine Corps aviation has been highlighted with the outstanding achievement of VMFA-115. The squadron has seen extensive service in nearly every war involving Marines. During those years, it carried out its assigned missions with distinction in the South Pacific, the Philippines, North China, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam and Thailand. In peacetime training, whether in Japan, the United States, Okinawa, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean or Western Europe, VMFA-115 set a standard of excellence for other fighter-attack squadrons in the Marine Corps to follow.
VMFA-122 “The Flying Leathernecks ”
Marine Fighter Squadron 122 was commissioned on March 1, 1942, at Camp Kearny, California. Originally the “Candystripers,” the squadron was organized and trained under its first commanding officer, Maj. I.I. Brackett. Outfitted with the Grumman F-4F “Wildcat fighter,” the squadron embarked on its first combat tour in October 1942. Throughout 1942 and 1943, the squadron conducted combat operations on Espiritu Santo, at Henderson Field, Guadalcanal, and during the Rendova and Munda campaigns. During April 1943, under the command of Maj. Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, VMF-122 transitioned to the Chance Vought F4U-1 Corsair fighter, and accounted for 35½ kills. The squadron ended its first combat tour, returning to Miramar, California, in August 1943.
Embarking on the USS Hollandia for its second combat deployment during July 1944, the squadron was outfitted with new Goodyear F4G-1A aircraft.
The squadron remained at Peleliu until reporting to MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina, in February 1946. Deactivated between July and October 1946, VMF-122 was reactivated and received the FH-1 Phantom in November 1947, becoming the first Marine squadron to employ jet-propelled aircraft. Assigned to the USS Oriskany, VMF-122 then became the first Marine jet squadron to be both day- and night-qualified for carrier operations. In July 1952, the squadron transitioned to the F9F-4 Panther. Later equipped with the more powerful F9F-5, the squadron deployed aboard the USS Coral Sea. Following a Mediterranean cruise in 1953, the squadron was assigned to MAG-24 at MCAS Cherry Point.
In January 1954, VMF-122 was the first Marine squadron equipped with the FJ-2 Fury. With a change of aircraft, the squadron adopted the distinctive Candystripers insignia and tail markings. VMF-122 relocated to MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina, in September 1957. In December 1957, the squadron became the fastest squadron in the Marine Corps with delivery of the first F8U-1 (F-8A) Crusaders by Chance-Vought. A new patch was designed to go with the new aircraft, and VMF-122 officially became known as the “Werewolves.”
During 1964, the Werewolves deployed to Peleliu for one year, returning to MCAS El Toro, California, in January 1965. At El Toro, VMF (AW)-122 transitioned to the F-4B Phantom and was designated Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122. VMFA-122 deployed to the Republic of Vietnam in August 1967, operating from Da Nang Air Base. VMFA-122 rotated to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, in September 1968, returning to Vietnam in the summer of 1969, at Marine Air Base Chu Lai.
Following a distinguished combat record, the Werewolves were assigned to MCAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, in September 1970. The Werewolves were then ordered to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, as a Joint Chiefs of Staff directive to counter a North Vietnamese offensive against South Vietnam. The squadron returned to Kaneohe Bay on Dec. 27, 1972.
On Aug. 14, 1974, VMFA-122 was placed in cadre status in anticipation of becoming the Marine Corps’ first F-14A squadron. With the decision not to accept the Tomcat into the Marine Corps inventory, VMFA-122 was reactivated at MCAS Beaufort and refitted with the F-4J. On Sept. 25, 1985, VMFA-122 flew its last F-4 sortie, completing 20 years of service as an F-4 Phantom squadron.
On Jan. 22, 1986, the Werewolves began a new era with the acceptance of their first F/A-18A Hornet. In October 2001, the Werewolves increased their combat capabilities by transitioning to the F/A-18C. In July 2002, the Werewolves continued the UDP rotation, deploying to Iwakuni, Japan, in which the squadron was extended for a full year. While on deployment in November 2002, the Werewolves surpassed 70,000 Class A mishap-free flight hours. In February 2004, the squadron deployed for a Western Pacific tour for six months.
The Werewolves returned in early 2007 from a six-month deployment to Iwakuni, supporting training requirements in Japan and South Korea. The squadron officially became known as the Werewolves on Jan. 8, 2008. The Werewolves made history Aug. 29, 2008, when the squadron stepped off American territory and headed east to participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The Werewolves, upon their return in May 2011, were the last F/A-18 squadron to serve on the ground in Afghanistan, flying out of Kandahar Airfield. In July 2013 and September 2014, the Werewolves returned after participating in a six-month deployment in support of the Unit Deployment Program in the Western Pacific. The most recent Werewolf deployment to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan was in March 2016.
VMFA (AW)-224 “The Bengals”
Marine Fighter Squadron (VMF) 224 was commissioned May 1, 1942, at Barbers Point, Hawaii. Flying Grumman F-4F Wildcats, the Bengals entered World War II as part of the vaunted Cactus Air Force stationed on Henderson Field, Guadalcanal. Led by Medal of Honor recipient Maj. Robert Galer, in less than two months the squadron accounted for more than 60 downed Japanese aircraft and conducted infantry support missions while under constant attack from Japanese naval, air and ground forces. The American victory at Guadalcanal helped stem the tide of the Japanese advance across the Southern Pacific and secured a crucial foothold in the long island-hopping campaign to Japan.
After Japan’s surrender, the squadron served in various capacities in the States and overseas. The squadron entered the jet era in 1951 with the acceptance of the F2H-2 Banshee. In 1952, after completing a Mediterranean cruise aboard the USS Roosevelt, the squadron accepted the Grumman F9F-5 Panther and was redesignated Marine Attack Squadron (VMA)–224. In July 1956, the squadron became the first Marine unit to field the A4D-1 Skyhawk aircraft.
On Nov. 1, 1966, the squadron acquired the Grumman A-6A Intruder and was redesignated as Marine All-Weather Attack Squadron 224.
The squadron received the upgraded A-6E TRAM (Target Recognition and Multi-Sensor) aircraft in 1974.
In 1990, the Bengals deployed to the Middle East, arriving on Aug. 28. Operating from Shaikh Isa Air Base, Bahrain, the squadron conducted deterrent and training sorties as part of Operation Desert Shield. From Jan. 16 to Feb. 28, 1991, the Bengals led the way in night combat operations in support of Operation Desert Storm, expending more than 2.3 million pounds of ordnance during 422 combat sorties.
On March 6, 1993, the squadron was redesignated VMFA (AW)-224 and moved to MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina, where the Bengals received the multimission F/A-18D Hornet.
In September 1994, September 1995 and February 1997, the Bengals deployed to Aviano, Italy, as part of the United Nations force for operations Deny Flight, Provide Promise, Deliberate Force, Joint Endeavor, Deliberate Guard and Silver Wake.
VMFA (AW)-224 deployed for UDP in the Far East in July 2001. For a majority of the deployment the squadron was split into two detachments. The detachments flew in support of both 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and 15th MEU, and conducted ATARS reconnaissance missions, normal squadron training and other such operations as deemed necessary by 1st MAW and MAG-12. During the course of the UDP, the Bengals operated out of Guam, Okinawa, Australia, Truk Island, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, South Korea and mainland Japan.
In July 2003, VMFA (AW)-224 deployed again for UDP in the Far East. The unit operated out of Darwin, Australia; Okinawa; Guam, in support of Exercise Cope North; and Iwakuni, Japan.
In February 2005, the unit was the first MAG-31 squadron to deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The unit returned in August 2005 after completing a successful combat deployment at Camp Al Asad, Iraq.
The squadron boasts an impressive record of sorties flown and delivery of ordnance in support of ground operations. In 2007, the Bengals were deployed to Iwakuni as part of the Unit Deployment Program. In 2012, the squadron participated in another UDP rotation from September to March 2013.
From 2009 to the present, the Fighting Bengals have deployed five times as part of the UDP, participating in multinational exercises and international joint training operations to strengthen alliances with countries throughout the region. The most recent UDP rotation by the Bengals was October 2015 to February 2016. VMFA (AW)-224 deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in 2017.
VMFA-251 “The Thunderbolts”
Marine Fighter Squadron 251 was activated Dec. 1, 1941, at Naval Air Station North Island, California, as Marine Observation Squadron 251 (VMO-251) under the command of Capt. Elliot E. Bard.
While flying the Grumman F4F-3P Wildcat during World War II, the squadron participated in numerous Pacific campaigns including Guadalcanal, the Solomon Islands, Santa Cruz, Luzon and the southern Philippines. In July 1942, the squadron deployed to New Zealand and was then relocated to the island of Espiritu Santo to support the invasion of Guadalcanal. The squadron returned to the United States in July 1943.
Following a move to Mojave, California, in May 1943 and then to California’s Camp Pendleton in November of that same year, the squadron transitioned to the Vought F-4U Corsair and was redesignated as Marine Fighting Squadron 251. The squadron was redeployed to Espiritu Santo in February 1944 with the new motto, “Lucifer’s Messenger,” and they then participated in an offensive push on the Japanese Fortress of Rabaul until January 1944. The Thunderbolts then relocated to the central Philippines and again to Bougainville in June for the Bismarck Sea campaign before returning to the Philippines in January 1945. VMF-251 continued operations in the Pacific until May 1, 1945, when it flew its last combat mission of World War II while supporting cleanup operations at Leyte. In May 1994, VMFA-251 received F/A-18Cs in preparation for assignment to Carrier Air Wing One aboard the USS America. The Thunderbolts successfully completed their first carrier deployment with the F/A-18C in February 1996. The Thunderbolts deployed two additional times with CVW-1, aboard the USS George Washington in September 1997 and the USS John F. Kennedy in September 1999. Both deployments were in support of Operation Southern Watch.
During summer 2001, the squadron completed another workup cycle with CVW-1 and in September deployed onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt to the Arabian Sea, where it was the first Marine squadron to participate in Operation Enduring Freedom. The squadron returned to MCAS Beaufort in March 2002.
In September 2002, the Thunderbolts were presented the Robert Hanson Trophy as the “Marine Fighter Attack Squadron of the Year.”
On Feb. 12, 2003, the squadron detached from MAG-31 for an unscheduled deployment with MAG-11 to the Middle East in support of, first, Operation Southern Watch (OSW), then Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). On Feb. 20, 2003, the squadron began flying combat missions in support of OSW then transitioned to combat operations in support of OIF on March 19, 2003.
The squadron flew its last OIF mission on May 4, 2003, and returned home to MAG-31 on May 13, 2003. It deployed again aboard the USS Enterprise from April 2006 to October 2006 and flew missions in support of both Operations Enduring Freedom and OIF. This deployment marked the first time that, as a carrier-based squadron, the unit deployed ashore, to Camp Al Asad, Iraq, for two months before embarking back on the USS Enterprise. The squadron deployed aboard the USS Enterprise again from July to December 2007 and flew missions in support of the Global War on Terrorism.
The Thunderbolts were the last Marine fighter attack squadron to serve aboard the USS Enterprise. The aircraft carrier was decommissioned after the squadron’s return to the Air Station in November 2012.
In March 2015, VMFA-251 deployed aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. This is the last aircraft carrier deployment for the squadron before it transitions to the F-35 in the coming years.
VMFA-312 “The Checkerboards”
Marine Fighter Squadron 312 (VMF-312) was commissioned June 1, 1943, at Page Field, Parris Island, South Carolina. Commanded by Maj. Richard M. Day, the squadron began flight operations with 10 SNJ 4 Texans, one F4U-1D and one SNJ-4, as well as combat training due to the urgency of the war effort. At this time, the Checkerboards emblem began to appear on both the cowling and rudder of the aircraft. Sporting six .50-caliber machine guns, the design continues to be the identifier of VMFA-312.
Departing Parris Island on Jan. 2, 1944, the squadron prepared to begin combat in the Pacific theater as part of Marine Aircraft Group 11. On June 25, 1944, the squadron was transported to Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, where they received 24 FG-1 Corsairs. With newly installed 3.5- and 5-inch rocket launchers, the squadron prepared for its first combat action from the recently captured Kadena airstrip. VMF-312 continued to operate from Kadena Air Base until hostilities ended.
In 1973, the squadron received the newer F-4J aircraft, with its much improved radar, avionics and aerodynamic design.
In 1979, the Checkerboards became the initial Second Marine Aircraft Wing Fighter Squadron to deploy to WES-PAC under the Unit Deployment six-month rotation program. In July 1987, VMFA-312 retired its F-4 aircraft and transitioned to the F/A-18A Hornet.
In April 2000, VMFA-312 began cruise workups with Carrier Air Wing Three and on Nov. 27, 2000, embarked on the USS Harry S. Truman for its historic first deployment.
Carrier Air Wing Three entered the North Arabian Gulf and began Operation Southern Watch missions on Jan. 3, 2001. On Jan. 20, a VMFA-312 jet destroyed an anti-aircraft artillery site that was threatening coalition aircraft in Southern Iraq. On Feb. 16, five VMFA-312 aircraft participated in a large-force strike against numerous targets in the vicinity of Baghdad.
The Checkerboards deployed aboard the USS Enterprise in August 2003 and flew combat sorties in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. In November 2003, VMFA-312 was the first squadron in Carrier Air Wing One to release ordnance in support of ground forces in Iraq. The Checkerboards remained in the Central Command Area of Responsibility until the end of January and returned home to Beaufort in February 2004. The squadron was awarded the 2004 Marine Corps Aviation Association Hanson Award as the best Fighter Attack squadron in the Marine Corps. The squadron deployed again in September 2007 as part of the Unit Deployment Program and returned in spring 2008.
The Checkerboards deployed aboard the USS Harry S. Truman in 2010 and 2012, serving as the last F/A18 squadron to fly in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The most recent deployment by the Checkerboards was to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan as part of the Unit Deployment Program.
VMFA (AW)-533 “The Hawks”
Marine Fighter Squadron 533 began an illustrious tradition of tactical excellence at Cherry Point, North Carolina, on Oct. 1, 1943. Commissioned as Marine Night Fighter Squadron 533, it was the third such Marine Squadron that flew the Grumman F6F-3N Hellcat.
In October 1945, 533 was stationed in Peiping, China, and soon transitioned to the F7F-3N Tigercat. From Peiping the squadron moved to Hawaii, and in January 1947 back to MCAS Cherry Point, where during the Korean conflict the squadron trained aircrews for night fighter squadrons in Korea.
In May 1953, the squadron transitioned to its first jet aircraft, the F2H-A Banshee, and was redesignated as Marine Fighter Squadron 533. The F9F-9 Cougar was introduced to the Hawks in 1957. A-4Ds replaced the Cougars and the squadron was redesignated Marine Attack Squadron 533 in 1959. In 1965, Marine Attack Squadron 533 became Marine All Weather Attack Squadron after acquiring the world’s most sophisticated attack aircraft at the time, the Grumman A-6A Intruder. In June 1972, VMA (AW)-533 returned to combat while deployed to Nam Phong, Thailand, otherwise known as the “Rose Garden.” The squadron returned to MCAS Iwakuni in August 1973. In November 1975, the squadron departed for MCAS Cherry Point. In 1976, VMA (AW)-533 received its first Marine A-6E aircraft.
During December 1990, the squadron completed the movement of 10 A-6E Intruders to NAS Cubi Point, Philippines, in preparation for deployment to Operation Desert Shield. From Dec. 23, 1990, to Jan. 16, 1991, the Hawks conducted flight operations and 24-hour CAS/DAS alerts in support of Operation Desert Shield.
On March 24, 1991, the squadron returned to MCAS Cherry Point, completing an 11.5-month around-the-world tour. The Hawks made history Sept. 1, 1992, when they were redesignated Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533, becoming the first squadron in the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing to transition to the two-seat F/A-18D. The squadron received its first F/A-18D on Oct. 7, 1992, and completed relocation to MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina, on Dec. 7, 1992. In July 1993, VMFA (AW)-533 deployed to Aviano Air Base, Italy, in support of NATO forces and Security Council Resolution 816. The Hawks flew their first operational mission over Bosnia-Herzegovina only three days after setting foot on Italian soil. The squadron returned to the United States on Jan. 14, 1994.
On March 23, 1995, VMFA (AW)-533 redeployed to Aviano in support of Operation Deny Flight. On June 8, 1995, a division of Hawks located and assisted in the rescue of Air Force Capt. Scott O’Grady. In August 1996, VMFA (AW)-533 redeployed to Aviano Air Base in support of Operations Decisive Edge and Joint Endeavor. The Hawks returned to MCAS Beaufort on Feb. 22, 1997.
On Aug. 31, 1998, VMFA (AW)-533 left MCAS Beaufort for its first WestPac Deployment in seven years. On May 28, 1999, the Hawks led the first strike into Yugoslavia, destroying multiple military storage facilities north of Pristina. After spending nine of the previous 11 months deployed, the Hawks returned to MCAS Beaufort on July 2, 1999.
Departing Beaufort on Feb. 10, 2003, in support of Operation Southern Watch and Operation Enduring Freedom and arriving at Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait, the Hawks again found themselves poised for combat. On March 20, 2003, coalition forces crossed into Iraq and for the next 30 days the Hawks conducted 24-hour flight operations in support of the coalition forces’ advance into Iraq. With the end of hostilities in mid-April 2003, the Hawks were ordered to prepare for redeployment to CONUS. Leaving the sandstorms of Kuwait behind, the squadron began their retrograde on May 2, 2003, and had safely returned every member of the squadron to Beaufort by May 10, 2003.
In February 2006, the Hawks deployed to Al Asad Air Base in Al Anbar Province of Iraq.
The squadron was assigned to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing in support of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. The Hawks employed the F/A-18D with the LITENING II FLIR/TV pod in myriad roles that included reconnaissance, surveillance, convoy escort, close-air support, strike missions, forward air controller airborne (FAC[A]) and tactical air controller airborne. While operating around the clock, the squadron expended over 110,000 pounds of ordnance, flying 2,480 sorties and 7,456 flight hours. Having returned safely in August 2006, the Hawks continued to hone their warfighting skills, once again eager to prove their combat capabilities whenever called upon.
From 2009 to the present, the Hawks have deployed four times to the Western Pacific in support of the Unit Deployment Program, participating in multinational exercises and international joint training operations to strengthen alliances with countries throughout the region.
VMFAT-501 “The Warlords”
Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, the Blue Devils, was initially activated as Marine Fighting Squadron 451 (VMF-451) on Feb. 15, 1944, at Marine Corps Air Station Mojave, California. The squadron was one of 32 squadrons that trained at the base and were collectively known as the Mojave Marines.
The Blue Devils moved onboard the USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) aircraft carrier on Jan. 24, 1945. They earned a Presidential Unit Citation for their efforts in the Japan, Bonin and Ryukyus campaigns, and were deactivated Sept. 10, 1945. On July 1, 1946, the “Fightin’ Phillies” were reactivated as a Reserve unit at Naval Air Station Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, equipped with the Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat. On March 1, 1951, the unit was recalled to active duty and equipped with the Grumman F9F-2 Panther. VMF-451 was relocated to MCAS El Toro, California, and periodically deployed to Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.
In October 1954, VMF-451 upgraded to the North American FJ-2 Fury. On Oct. 20, the Warlords craned their Furys onboard the USS Corregidor (CVE-58) to deploy to NAF Atsugi, Japan. In 1956, VMF-451 became the first Marine squadron to receive the upgraded FJ-4 Fury. The Warlords were on station at the end of the Taiwan Straits crisis and returned with their FJ-4s to MCAS El Toro in November 1959 after brief carrier qualifications onboard the USS Lexington (CVA-16). While at MCAS El Toro, VMF-451 upgraded from the FJ-4 Fury to the supersonic Vought F8U-2 Crusader, flying the day fighter for 18 months before upgrading to the F8U-2N all-weather variant, and were redesignated Marine Fighter Squadron (All Weather) 451 or VMF (AW)-451. On Jan. 4, 1962, the squadron deployed to Naval Air Station Atsugi in Japan, but instead of being packed aboard a carrier for a 45-day journey, the Warlords became the first squadron to make use of the new KC-130 Hercules for air-to-air refueling as they flew their aircraft to the station. The Warlords remained in the Far East until Feb. 1, 1963, when they were ordered to MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina. On Aug. 24, VMF (AW)-451 deployed aboard the supercarrier USS Forrestal (CVA-59) for a Mediterranean cruise before returning to MCAS Beaufort on April 7, 1966. On Feb. 1, 1968, the Warlords turned in their Crusaders in favor of the McDonnell Douglas F-4J Phantom II. With the new aircraft came the new designation, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 451 (VMFA-451).
In May 1989, the squadron again sailed with the USS Coral Sea (CV-43) for a Mediterranean cruise to end an eight-year absence of Beaufort-based Marine units on carriers. During the cruise, VMFA-451 learned it was the recipient of the 1988 Hanson Award as the outstanding Marine fighter-attack squadron, as they had surpassed 40,000 accident-free hours. The squadron returned to Beaufort in September 1989.
On Aug. 23, 1990, VMFA-451 deployed to Bahrain in support of Operation Desert Shield. On Jan. 17, 1991, the Warlords became the first Marine unit to attack Iraqi forces in Operation Desert Storm. The Warlords ended the operation with 770 combat sorties and 1,400 combat hours. They returned to MCAS Beaufort with all aircraft and personnel. VMFA-451 spent the remaining six years leading up to deactivation on the East Coast, making periodic deployments that included exercises in Norway. They returned from the Western Pacific in late July 1996, and from there, wound down a 57-year history. The Warlords of VMFA-451 were deactivated on Jan. 31, 1997.
On April 1, 2010, the squadron was reactivated and redesignated as VMFAT-501 at a ceremony at the National Museum of Naval Aviation at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida. The squadron serves as the F-35B Lightning II Fleet Replacement Squadron. Stationed at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, it falls administratively under Marine Aircraft Group 31 but operationally under the 33d Fighter Wing, which controls all F-35 training for the Air Force and U.S. Navy. The squadron relocated to its permanent home at MCAS Beaufort in 2014.
Marine Wing Support Detachment 31
Marine Wing Support Squadron 273 on MCAS Beaufort was redesignated as Marine Wing Support Detachment 31 on June 16, 2016. Regardless of the redesignation, MWSD-31 shares the history of MWSS-273.
On June 13, 1986, Marine Wing Support Squadron 273 (MWSS-273) was formed at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, from elements of Marine Air Base Squadron 31 and Detachment Bravo, Marine Wing Support Group 27. The assigned mission of MWSS-273 is to provide all essential aviation ground support to a designated fixed-wing component of a Marine Aviation Combat Element (ACE) and all supporting or attached elements of the Marine Air Control Group (MACG). This support includes internal airfield communications, weather services, expeditionary airfield services, aircraft rescue and firefighting, aircraft and ground refueling, essential engineer services, motor transport, messing, chemical defense, security and law enforcement, airbase commandant functions and explosive ordnance disposal.
Additionally, in garrison, MWSS-273 is tasked to supplement air station facilities and services provided by Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.
Since the formation of the squadron, the Sweathogs of MWSS-273 have distinguished themselves tactically and professionally in the continental United States and around the world. In 1989, MWSS-273 provided extensive disaster relief support to Charleston, South Carolina, in the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo. During Operation Desert Storm in 1990, the squadron had a direct role in providing aviation ground support for United Nations forces conducting combat operations against Iraq.
During Operation Desert Storm, the Marines of MWSS-273 helped build the largest expeditionary airfield in Marine Corps history at Al Khanjar, Saudi Arabia, in addition to several other major construction and transportation projects. Throughout the 1990s, the squadron provided extensive operational support to Aviano Air Force Base, Italy, NATO contingency operations Deny Flight and Provide Promise, Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti, Operation Joint Forge in the Balkans, Operation Allied Force and Joint Task Force Noble Anvil in Taszar, Hungary, and to numerous Marine Expeditionary Units. In addition, MWSS-273 has also provided extensive training and exercise support both in and out of CONUS, including Baltic Challenge, Baltic Castle, Roving Sands, Combined Arms Exercises (CAX), Hornet’s Nest, Battle Griffin, Fuertes Defenses, Dynamic Mix, Joint Task Force-6 and New Horizons.
MWSS-273 has extended its impressive record into the new millennium, providing support personnel for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Joint Task Force-Bravo in the Republic of Honduras, and exercises CAX, Desert Talon and New Horizons. These operations and exercises have continuously challenged the abilities and dedication of the squadron throughout its history, yielding consistently stellar results.
In addition to its tactical competence and success, MWSS-273 has consistently provided support for military and civic construction projects, saving taxpayers millions of dollars.
Major projects completed by the Sweathogs include: The Marine Corps Recruit Depot; Parris Island’s “Crucible” and several physical fitness areas; the Summerville, South Carolina, parks and recreation athletic complex; St. Helena Island’s tornado cleanup; erosion control at Hunting Island State Park; and hurricane evacuation and cleanup assistance. Since 1997, MWSS-273 has taken the lead, Marine Corps-wide, in K-Span construction, completing more than 20 buildings in five years, including 11 K-Spans for MCGCDC 29 Palms, California, six K-Spans for MCAS Beaufort, two K-Spans for MCRD PI and one K-Span for the local community.
Unit Awards include the Navy Commendation Streamer, the National Defense Service Streamer and the Southwest Asia Streamer with three bronze stars.
In April 2009, the Sweathogs returned from a seven-month deployment during which they operated out of Al Asad Air Base, where they provided aviation ground support for Multi-National Force–West in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.
The Sweathogs deployed to Afghanistan in spring 2012 to support the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (FWD) with ground backing for aircraft as well as retrograde efforts throughout Southwestern Afghanistan.
Marine Air Control Squadron 2 (MACS-2) “Eyes of the MAGTF”
Marine Air Control Squadron 2’s history dates to April 1, 1944, when the squadron was formed as Marine Air Warning Squadron 11 at Cherry Point, North Carolina, and was attached to Marine Air Warning Group 1, 9th Marine Aircraft Wing. During June 1944, the squadron relocated to Miramar, California, and was assigned to Marine Air Warning Group 2. In March 1945, the squadron relocated once again, being assigned to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Four months later, Marine Air Warning Squadron 11 joined Marine Aircraft Group 43 of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing in Kume Shima, Ryuku Islands. Shortly thereafter, in October 1945, the squadron moved to Tsingtao, China, to join Marine Aircraft Group 24, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, and participated in the occupation of North China until May 1946. Proceeding from North China, the squadron moved once again to Miramar, and in August 1946, it was redesignated as Marine Ground Control Intercept Squadron 2, a member of Marine Air Warning Group 2, where it remained until its deactivation on Oct. 15, 1947.
As world attention began to focus upon communist activity on the Korean Peninsula, Marine Ground Control Intercept Squadron 2 was reactivated in El Toro, California, on Aug. 3, 1950. In January 1952, the squadron was attached to Marine Aircraft Group 13, and two months later moved with MAG-13 to Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. On Feb. 15, 1954, the squadron was redesignated as Marine Air Control Squadron 2, and four years later, in November 1958, relocated to Atsugi, Japan. In March 1959, MACS-2 joined the First Marine Brigade and returned to Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. In August 1990, MACS-2 received orders to deploy to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Desert Shield, and on Sept. 6, 1990, arrived in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Establishing a Tactical Air Operations Center (TAOC) in the vicinity of King Abdul Aziz Naval Base (KAANB), MACS-2 provided a base defense zone for KAANB and the port of Al Jubayl. On Dec. 29, 1990, MACS-2 displaced to Ras Al Mishab port, harbor and airfield complex, establishing the primary TAOC 8 miles west, to provide anti-air warfare capabilities in support of USMARCENT and I MEF air and ground operations. During Operation Desert Storm in February 1991, an Early Warning and Control (EW/C) site deployed with the ground combat element through the breach to Ahmed Al Jaber airfield in Kuwait. Upon cessation of hostilities, MACS-2 was redeployed to MCAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, in March 1991, in support of Marine Aircraft Group 24, 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade.
In 1993, MACS-2 relocated to Beaufort, South Carolina, subordinate to Marine Aircraft Group 31. While supporting MAG-31 in 1994, MACS-2 acquired Air Traffic Control Detachments A and B. Also in 1994, MACS-2 deployed in support of exercise Display Determination in Turkey, a NATO exercise involving the integration of foreign military units with American units including an ATC and EW/C detachment. Between 1995 and 1998, MACS-2 participated in Joint Task Force 6, also known as Operation Lone Star, a drug interdiction operation patrolling the Mexican-American border. Further drug interdiction operations included EC-7 in 1996 in Ecuador and Operation Laser Strike in 1997 in Peru. ATC detachments C and D joined MACS-2 in 1998.
MACS-2 relocated once more to Cherry Point in 1998 under Marine Air Control Group 28, where the squadron resides today. Deployed in support of real-world operations, MACS-2 sent an ATC detachment known as a Marine Air Traffic Control Mobile Team (MMT) to Kosovo with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit in 1999. In support of the ground war in Serbia, MACS-2 deployed an MMT to Hungary, also in 1999. In 2001, MACS-2 sent TAOC Marines to Southwest Asia to support the Air Force in Operation Southern Watch. More recent operations include providing an ATC detachment to the Winter Olympics in Solchi, Russia, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. MACS-2 Marines are currently training to provide combat-ready, technically and tactically proficient Marines capable of supporting any future contingency.