MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. – --
Gearing up for an approaching deployment to Afghanistan, infantry Marines based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., took off on a nighttime helicopter raid from the flight line here Oct. 16, 2009.
Supported by pilots and aircraft from the Weapons and Tactics Instructors course, Marines of Company A, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, loaded onto six CH-53 helicopters and two MV-22 Ospreys and headed for an airfield 260 miles away at Fort Huachuca near Tucson, Ariz.
The scenario for the exercise involved extracting a man who defected from enemy forces. The company’s goal was to raid two separate airfields simultaneously, extract the defector and his family, as well as the defector’s van full of valuable communication equipment, and return to Yuma.
After touching down at the airfield shrouded in darkness, 130 of the company’s Marines rushed off the helicopters and started toward their objectives.
Equipped with night-vision goggles, the Marines found their targets and escorted them to their extraction point. The assault team and family were then flown away by an MV-22 Osprey.
Once the communications equipment was seized, a KC-130 landed on the flight line to receive the van and its contents.
The remainder of the company was extracted in CH-53s and headed back to the air station.
“The mission was definitely a success,” said 1st Lt. Craig Bryan, company executive officer. “The opportunity to work with the helicopters and improve our standard operating procedures on helo-borne operations is absolutely going to help us be ready for anything the Marine Corps might assign us.”
The battalion’s companies expect to operate with helicopters on a regular basis during their upcoming deployment and are very appreciative of this opportunity, said Bryan.
The training thus far for all elements of the battalion has been well worth the time and effort taken to deploy from the East Coast, said Maj. Barron Mills, battalion executive officer.
“It’s an invaluable experience to work this closely with the pilots and air crews, not only in the execution of operations, but even more importantly during the planning process,” said Mills.
The battalion returned from a deployment to Iraq in February and has been preparing for their next deployment since April.
The battalion is also scheduled to participate in Exercise Mojave Viper at Twentynine Palms, Calif., in January 2010 before its deployment that spring.