NAVAL AIR STATION JOINT RESERVE BASE FORT WORTH, Texas – --
“Work.” That’s how Active Reserve Marine, Sgt. Ernesto Camacho, aircraft electrical systems technician with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 112, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 41, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), Marine Forces Reserve (MARFORRES), described his experience while deployed to the Indo-Pacific region. Over the last six months, Marine fighter attack aircraft operated, trained, partnered, and literally maintained a deterrence check on adversary actions in the region. When asked why he thought he had to put in all that work, Camacho answered, “It was a flex. And I think we did it well. If anything were to happen, we were ready.”
A cursory glance at recent news headlines, can quickly summarize what ready for “anything” Camacho was referring to. From Chinese aggression around the region – specifically aimed at Taiwan, to a resurgence of North Korean missile program tests into to the Sea of Japan, underscore the need for a ready U.S. and Allied Partner posture to sustain a free and open Indo-Pacific. Camacho was one of 254 Reserve and Active duty Marines with VMFA-112 and MALS (Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron) 41 who traveled from their Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas to Marine Corps Air Station, Iwakuni, Japan as a part of the Marine Corps’ Unit Deployment Program (UDP) in the Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) area of responsibility.
VMFA-112, the Marine Corps’ only reserve F/A-18 Hornet squadron, rotated to INDOPACOM in order to support 1st Marine Aircraft Wing’s mission of promoting regional stability and maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific through air dominance, as well as alleviating the operational tempo of active duty units stationed in the area. “The main point of the UDP is to ensure peace and stability in the U.S. INDOPACOM area, but we’re also able to do some training while we’re there to technically and tactically increase the Marines’ MOS [military occupational specialty] proficiency,” said 1st Lt. Cody Clark, an intelligence officer with VMFA-112.
“There tends to be a stigma that reserve Marines can’t bring the same capability as active duty, but as we’ve proven here, that simply is not the case.”Capt. Cory Walker, MALS-41 detachment officer-in-charge
“We were able to do some maritime strike training as well as interoperability training with our Navy and Air Force counterparts and the Japanese Self Defense Force,” said Clark. The squadron supported multiple training exercises in Japan, Korea and Guam, according to Clark, each aimed at improving the capabilities of VMFA-112 and improving the squadron’s abilities to conduct joint operations with other branches in the U.S. Military as well as allied nations. “We supported [Combined and Joint Forces Training Exercises] at Kunsan Air Base in South Korea; Noble Jaguar at Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan; Resolute Dragon at Hyakuri Airbase in Omitama, Japan; and Cope North at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam,” Clark explained.
Marines with MALS-41 also joined VMFA-112 on their UDP to Japan, integrating with MALS-12, their active duty counterpart in Iwakuni, Japan, to provide intermediate maintenance support to VMFA-112, but also the other squadrons present at the air base. MALS-41 provides a deeper level of aircraft component maintenance as well as logistical support to operational squadrons. “We had 56 Marines apart of the MALS detachment, and they were all excited to be there,” said Capt. Cory Walker, the MALS-41 detachment officer-in-charge, attached to VMFA-112, “MALS-12 was just as eager to receive the support, utilizing the experience and the qualifications of the reserve Marines literally until their last day they were there.”
Marines and Sailors with VMFA-112 Return Home after Completing Deployment to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Area of Responsibility
Photo by Cpl. Brendan Mullin
VMFA-112 and MALS-41, while being reserve units, are still proficient in providing the same level of capabilities, support, and lethality as their active duty counterparts. “The reserve Marines who integrated with their active duty brethren, after just a few days of acclimation, were indistinguishable from the active duty Marines,” said Walker. “There tends to be a stigma that reserve Marines can’t bring the same capability as active duty, but as we’ve proven here, that simply is not the case.”
Reserve Marines were able to seamlessly integrate into the operational tempo, successfully accomplishing the mission, meeting every expectation that was laid out for them, according to their leadership. The execution of these Texas-based Marines’ successful rotation to the Indo-Pacific region is a testament to, not only the United States’ commitment to keeping the area free and open for international trade and commerce, but also a proven demonstration of the Marine Forces Reserve relevancy, readiness, and responsiveness.