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April 26--  The U.S. Marines set up camp at Vidalia Regional Airport Monday night and Tuesday conducted a training exercise with F-18 jets from the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, South Carolina.

The commander of the Marine Wing Support Squardon 273 , Lieutenant Colonel Andy Regan, says his unit is training for deployment to Afghanistan.

"This unit is about two rotations out from deploying to Afghanistan and every Marine Wing Support Squadron which has gone into Afghanistan has installed arresting gear," he says.


Marine pilots have a hook on the rear fuselage of their jets which is snagged by an arresting cable across the runway.  The procedure allows jets to land on short airfields in combat areas by slowing the planes and pulling them to a stop in less than a thousand feet.


Lieutenant Colonel Regan says he chose Vidalia Regional Airport for the training after attending an Onion Festival Air Show several years back.

"I don't mean this as an insult, but there's nothing out here except the air strip.  I came out here four years ago for the air show.  I thought from the atmosphere of the people I met that Vidalia was a very welcoming community with a lot of patriotic people," he said.

The squadron commander also reports the Marine Corps is getting lots of top notch young people these days.

"The faith people can have in this generation is that they want to contribute.  We're talking about the kids who were ten or eleven years old on September 11, 2001.  They remember that and we're getting a lot of kids who want to do their part," the commander says.

Vidalia Regional Airport also benefitted from the exercise.  Manager Kevin Britton says the Marines removed some foliage from the airport and did some improvements to the runway.