U.S. Marine Corporal John Conners, 30, of New Richmond, has recently been deployed to Iraq with the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron #115 (VMFA).
Operating out of the Al Asad Air Base in Iraq, Conners, an airframe mechanic and assistant night crew supervisor for the airframes section, graduated from New Richmond High School in 1995 and enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2003.
Stationed aboard the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, S.C., Conners was deployed to Iraq three weeks ago.
“This is my first tour of duty,” Conners said. “Our mission is to provide air support to U.S. and coalition forces on the ground. As an airframes mechanic, I help make sure that the jets are ready to fly by maintaining all of the hydraulics, the structure of the aircraft itself, and the landing gear on the F/A-18′s (fighter jets).”
"We are like a big family," Conners observes. "I'm lucky to have a dedicated group of people like them out here with me."
Sgt. Lukas Atwell, the public affairs chief for the F/A 18 Hornet Squadron, said that the Marine fighter hornet attack squadron - known as the Silver Eagles - is made up of many brave, dedicated, and talented Marines, like Conners, who maintain the jets and keep them mission capable.
"There are always jets out on missions, which means that the maintainers have a 24-hour, 7 day a week job," Atwell said.
The squadron has been deployed twice before going to Iraq aboard the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman in support of the global war on terror, but this is the first time that the Silver Eagles have actually been deployed to Iraq.
In the last year, Atwell said that the squadron has performed six training exercises that have taken them from Beaufort to California to Arizona and throughout the southeast.
"These training exercises were a chance to get both the pilots and the maintainers ready for the increased operational tempo (the surge) they now face here in Iraq," Atwell said. "The Marines here are most assuredly a family unit; they support each other and get their mission accomplished together as a team.
Cpl. John A. Conners, who hopes to return home in November to his wife Jennifer and their 1-year-old daughter Jacie, loves being a Marine.
"Next to being a father and a husband, this is the best thing that I have ever been a part of," he said. "I would like my family and friends to know that I love them and miss them and cannot wait to get back to Ohio."