MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Children ran throughout Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1’s
headquarters Tuesday while parents, spouses and friends stood with their Marines and sailors, spending as much time as possible with their loved ones before the service members loaded the buses and departed for Afghanistan.
Despite the knowledge of the seven-month deployment to the Helmand Province, morale was high as people laughed, children played in a Jupiter Jump and explored VMU-1’s facilities.
VMU-1’s mission during the deployment will be to provide support to the Marine Air Ground Task Force by using their unmanned aerial vehicles to patrol the sky and report their findings to help service members patrolling the ground know what to expect.
Capt. Dave Lemke, the UAV mission commander for the battalion, said they will be implementing two UAVs, the RQ-7B Shadow and the Scan Eagle, throughout the deployment.
“I know my Marines will perform exceptionally,” said Lemke, a Hales Corners, Wis., native. “We conducted all the required predeployment training necessary, which prepared my Marines for what they are going to experience while in country.”
Cpl. Nicholas Root, a communications technician with VMU-1, said he is excited to go to Afghanistan, but had misgivings when he first heard of their deployment.
“I really didn’t understand how important our mission was until I went to corporals course,” said Root, a Fort Collins, Colo., native. “I met a grunt during the course, and we started talking. He told me about all the times his platoon was saved because a UAV had found an ambush in front of them.
“After I spoke to him, I knew our deployment was necessary. He told me how they always feel better knowing a UAV was backing them,” Root explained.
The mood dimmed as officers called the Marines to the buses. Spouses hugged and kissed their Marines and children grabbed one last piggy-back ride before saying their goodbyes.
“I just want to get over there, do a good job, then turn around and come home to my family,” said Staff Sgt. Travis Zell, the data chief for the communications element of VMU-1, and a Bellefontaine, Ohio native.
Zell’s wife, Christine, said the hardest part of the deployment is having to be a single parent while missing their other half.
“We just have to take it day by day,” said Christine, also a Bellefontaine, Ohio native, while hugging their son, Ethan, whose father will miss his second birthday. “It is difficult trying to keep a normal semblance of life.”
VMU-1 is scheduled to return to the Combat Center this winter, and many family members hope it is before the holidays.