By Joy Smith
4 Wing Cold Lake is playing host once again to some high-profile visitors as the United States Marine Corps "Ace of Spades" Squadron, VMA 231 based at the Marine Corps Air Station in Cherry Point, North Carolina carries out its annual air to ground refresher training.
Lieutenant-Colonel Mark Brewster, Commanding Officer of the Marine Attack Squadron has nothing but high praise for 4 Wing, its training facilities, and the citizens of Cold Lake.
"So far everybody has been extremely supportive of us," says LCol Brewster. "From the Acting Wing Commander all the way down; everyone who we have run into have been very receptive to the work that we are trying to get done and being very supportive of it.
Approximately 240 United States Marines have accompanied the fleet of Harrier jets to complete the training exercise. For the majority of the personnel from North Carolina, this is their first visit to a Canadian Air Force base and Canada for that matter.
"It's a great opportunity for the Marines to come up here and visit Canada," says LCol Brewster. "To see all the great scenery and the sights and enjoy all the local recreation that's here is just great."
VMA-231 (squadron) began as 1st Division, Squadron 1, on February 8, 1919, a unit that emerged from the Northern Bombing Group of Northern France in 1918. On August 31, 1962, the Marine Corps' oldest squadron became one of the first squadrons in the Corp to flythe Hawker-Siddeley AV-8A Harrier.
The AV-8A is a high performance, high speed jet aircraft that is uniquely capable of vertical and short takeoff and landing (V/STOL). VMA-231 is the third AV-8A squadron to be formed and is a vital part of the Marine Corps Air/Ground Team.
To date, both VMA 231 and VMA 542 have carried out eight to 10 training missions per day. The Marines are enjoying the experience of training on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range and they are very impressed with the targets. Air space available in North Carolina is very congested so the experience of training on a Weapons Range as large as 4 Wing's is a pleasant change.
"I'm very proud of all the Marines and the work they've done here," says LCol Brewster. We arrived on a Sunday and started flying missions the Monday. We have met all our training objectives so far and it's hard to argue with success.
"It has very little to do with me, it's all about them (Marines) and all the hard work they put in day in and day out. If you look up and down the flightline you'll see Marines doing their daily routine with a smile on their faces. You can't ask for much more than that."