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New Marine unmanned aircraft unit stationed at Yuma air station

By Cpl. Austin Hazard | | July 8, 2010

Yuma was recently selected as the site for a portion of the Corps’ newest squadron, Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 4, which started setting up here in June.

Once at full strength, the Yuma detachment of VMU-4 will add more than 40 Marines and sailors to the station’s ranks and four RQ-7B Shadow unmanned aircraft to its aviation fleet.

“VMU-4 is the first reserve squadron in the VMU community,” said Maj. Mark Crudo, acting detachment commander. “But this detachment and all of the Marines here are active duty. Our primary mission right now is to get the squadron up and running and into the deployment rotation.”

The detachment received much of its equipment, including its four aircraft, on June 25 and is still receiving Marines, but will not be fully operational until the entire squadron is fully established.

Though the squadron has a detachment in Yuma and two other planned detachments, the VMU-4 headquarters is expected to be located at Fort Hood, Texas.

Once the squadron is fully established, it will comprise more than 200 Marines and sailors and 12 aircraft. Yuma was selected for this detachment of VMU-4 because of its training environment, ranges and the exercises that take place here, said Crudo.

Though the squadron will be new, the detachment will primarily consist of seasoned VMU Marines.

“As we stand up the squadron’s detachment in Yuma, we can’t pull new Marines straight from the schoolhouse,” said Crudo. “So more experienced Marines from the other three VMU squadrons are filling in key billets.”

While the detachment’s location on the air station is not finalized, the Marines are planning to be placed at the Cannon Air Defense Complex east of the station. The complex will be near one of the detachment’s planned launch sites, making it a very convenient place for the unit to operate and train at.

Furthermore, due to Federal Aviation Administration regulations, the unmanned aircraft are not authorized to fly in civilian airspace, making the Cannon Air Defense Complex, which is within military airspace, a prime site for the detachment.

“The VMU-4 detachment in Yuma anticipates it will be one of the busiest VMU components throughout the Marine Corps,” said Crudo. “The squadron will affect the station in that we are another air component in and out of training – airspace, flight scheduling and everything else that comes with bringing more active aircraft to Yuma.”

The new squadron is also expected to alleviate the busy deployment schedule of the other three VMUs. Due to the squadrons’ usefulness in Iraq and Afghanistan, the VMUs typically leapfrog through deployments so that one of them is nearly always deployed.

“I was in VMU-1 when it was just VMU-1 and VMU-2,” said Sgt. Juan Fernandez, VMU-4 unmanned aircraft systems mechanic. “Before I hit my three-year mark, I had deployed three times with the squadron. This new squadron will help ease our deployment cycle.”

Details of the VMU-4 headquarters and detachments have not yet been published and are still in the planning phase, said Crudo.

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