#1311 F/A-18C Hornet
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Squadron Prints Lithograph No. 1311 - F/A-18C Hornet, 164892 \'401\', VMFA-251, MAG-31, MCAS Beaufort Carolina. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron Two Five One (VMFA-251), was activated on 1 December 1941 at NAS North Island, California as Marine Observation Squadron 251 (VMO-251). While flying the Grumman F4F “Wildcat” during World War II, the squadron participated in numerous Pacific campaigns. In 1944, the squadron transitioned to the F-4U “Corsair,” and was re-designated Marine Fighter Squadron Two Five One (VMF-251). VMF-251 continued operations in the South Pacific until it was deactivated at the end of the war. In 1946, VMF-251 was reactivated at Gross Isle, Michigan as a Ready Reserve squadron. With the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, VMF-251 was recalled to active service, transitioned to the AD-4 “Skyraider,” and was re-designated Marine Attack Squadron Two Five One (VMA-251). VMA-251 deployed to Korea in 1953 and flew the last Marine combat mission of the war. In 1957, VMA-251 was relocated to MCAS Miami, Florida, began flying the FJ-4 “Fury,” and returned to the designation VMF-251. In 1958 VMF-251 moved to MCAS El Toro, and received its first supersonic fighter, the F-8U “Crusader.” Later, the Thunderbolts departed for the Western Pacific carrying with them the new motto “Custos Caelorum,” meaning “Guardians of the Sky.” In 1960, VMF-251 was assigned to MAG-31 at MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina. VMF-251 was the first Marine F-8 squadron to deploy aboard an aircraft carrier, as part of Carrier Air Wing Ten (CVW-10) aboard the USS SHANGRI-LA (CVA-38). In 1964, the Thunderbolts transitioned to the F-4B “Phantom II,” and were re-designated Marine Fighter Attack Squadron Two Five One (VMFA-251). In 1969, VMFA-251 received the Robert M. Hanson Trophy as the “Marine Fighter Squadron of the Year,” and after twenty-one years and 85,000 flight hours, VMFA-251 flew its last F-4 in 1985. In 1986, the Thunderbolts transitioned to the F/A-18A “Hornet.” Over the next six years, the squadron participated in the Unit Deployment Program (UDP), completing three six-month deployments to Iwakuni, Japan. In 1994, the Thunderbolts participated in combat missions while deployed to Aviano Airbase, Italy supporting Operation DENY FLIGHT in Bosnia-Herzegovina. These missions marked the first combat sorties for a Marine squadron in Europe since World War I. In 1994, VMFA-251 received the F/A-18C, and deployed with Carrier Air Wing One (CVW-1) aboard the USS AMERICA (CV-66) in 1996, supporting Operations DENY FLIGHT and DELIBERATE FORCE. The Thunderbolts would again deploy with CVW-1, aboard the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN-73) in 1997 and the USS JOHN F. KENNEDY (CV-67) in 1999. Both deployments were to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH (OSW). During 2001 the squadron deployed with CVW-1 aboard the USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN-71). The deployment would take them to the Arabian Sea where they were the first Marine squadron to participate in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF). The Thunderbolts returned to MCAS Beaufort in 2002, and were again awarded the Robert M. Hanson Trophy. In 2003, the squadron deployed to Ahmed Al Jaber Airbase, Kuwait as part of MAG-11, 3D Marine Aircraft Wing in support of OSW and Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF). The Thunderbolts would deploy again in 2004 as part of the UDP. In 2006, twelve Marine F/A-18C’s from VMFA-251 recovered aboard the USS ENTERPRISE, and immediately transited the Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, and the Red Sea en route to the North Arabian Gulf in order to support OIF. In August, 2006, the Thunderbolts began a historic re-deployment from the USS ENTERPRISE into Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. This would mark the first time in recent history a squadron forward deployed from an aircraft carrier to a forward air base. Over the next month and a half, the Thunderbolts would simultaneously support OIF and OEF. At no other time in history has a squadron supported two campaigns simultaneously, let alone with the success of the Thunderbolts. In 2007, the Thunderbolts again embarked aboard the USS ENTERPRISE and began their second combat deployment in support of OIF in a little over a year. After a rebuilding period, VMFA-251 once again began work-ups in 2010 to prepare for another carrier deployment with CVW-1 aboard the USS ENTERPRISE. The Thunderbolts went on to conduct back to back cruises aboard the USS ENTERPRISE with CVW-1 in 2011 and 2012, supporting combat operations in OEF. VMFA-251 was again awarded the Robert M. Hanson Trophy in 2013. With the USS ENTERPRISE being retired and de-commissioned, VMFA-251 and CVW-1 were reassigned to the USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN-71) for future combat operations.