Maj. Erik Aubel said he is not sure how long Americans will be in Afghanistan, but one thing is for sure, his Marine Wing Support Squadron 271 will be ready to deploy again and again no matter where the hot spot is.
"Marines train to deploy. That’s what our job is," said Aubel, detachment commander. "So whether or not it’s the end to Afghanistan, that’s way above our pay grade to say, so all we’re worried about is this deployment, these seven months and doing the best job that we can."
Aubel left as leader of a group of more than 100 Marines from MWSS-271 bound for Afghanistan on Saturday morning.
"I think every deployment we go to we never expect it to be the last one because once Afghanistan was done there was Iraq before that," Aubel said. "There was northern Africa before that. Africa is heating up. Syria’s going crazy. North Korea’s out there. There’s a whole bunch of countries where there’s weird stuff going on. Hugo Chavez passed away last week. Who knows what’s happening down there. We may be down in the Caribbean doing stuff. The war on drugs is never won.
"Who knows what else is going on, so Marines are always ready for the next deployment. We don’t worry about this one being the last one because we know that there’s always going to be more."
Aubel said goodbye to his wife and three children before leaving the base.
"The big thing today is saying goodbye to the families and getting on the road and heading over the Afghanistan to accomplish the mission," Aubel said. "It’s always the hardest part, saying goodbye to your kids and saying goodbye to your wife and of course making sure we’ve done everything for them we can before we leave because once we get over there, we’re not going to be able to help out that much."
The commander said that about 70 percent of the Marines leaving Saturday were making their first deployment.
"It’s going to be a new adventure and a brand new experience," said Cpl. Clay Smith, who was leaving his wife on his first deployment.
Cpl. Salvadore Fonseca, also beginning a first-time deployment, said goodbye to his wife and daughter.
"It’s something that I’ve been wanting to do for a while," he said of the deployment. "It’s the reason I joined. I volunteered for this though. It will be alright. Seven months will fly by. We’re used to being separated now and then. As long as I get to go, that’s the reason I joined. I’ll be happy."
Sgt. Troy Barndt predicted a good deployment.
"It’s a pretty tight unit," he said. "We’re real close and care a lot about each other. I love doing what I do. I love helping people. I love leading Marines."
Sgt. William Stonebraker was deploying for the third time, leaving his wife and 7-year-old son.
"It’s the same as the other two, but this time it’s hard on me because I’m leaving my family and stuff like that," the aircraft mechanic said. "That’s the hardest thing is leaving the family. I have the one son. It’s going to be hard for him. We’ve had a better bond now. My first two, he was 1 or 2 years old, and now he’s a little bit older and he knows what’s going on so it’s a little bit harder, because he’s more functional, you know. It’s a little bit harder.
"It’s hard. I was getting dressed this morning and I was sitting on the bed crying my eyes out, but you really can’t let him see me doing that crying thing. You’ve got to be tough. You’ve got to stay strong. It’s hard. Deep down inside it’s hard. You’ve just got to deal with it in your own way."
The job of the unit is to support the operations of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, also based at Cherry Point, whatever that job may be.
"We’re the unusual guys," Aubel said. "We’re the ones you usually never hear about. We’re the ones that make sure the food is served, that corpsmen are there to render first aid, that gas is flowing, that water’s available, all the things that nobody thinks about day to day. When you go to the grocery store, we make all those things happen so that you can get to the grocery store and can get back.
"Nobody really knows that we exist until something goes wrong and then they’re worried about who handles their A/C, their heat, their water, their food, all that kind of stuff, so our job is to be unseen but at the same time make sure that everything is happening so that 2nd MAW gets everything they need."
Aubel has been with MWSS 271 for three years.
"These are some of the greatest guys I’ve ever worked with, some of the consummate professionals right down to the lowest ranks," he said. "Things that these 19- and 20-year olds do, most people would not expect 30- to 40-year olds to know in how professional and knowledgeable they are."