“Dragons” of the 31st MEU fly aboard USS Essex (LHD 2)
For almost 20 years, Marines and Sailors of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 (Reinforced), have supported the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit during deployments to the Asia-Pacific region.
Recently that tradition was continued as HMM 265 (Rein) flew aboard USS Essex (LHD 2) to support the MEU’s and the Essex Amphibious Ready Group’s deployment and upcoming certification exercises near Okinawa.
“HMM 265 (Rein) is the backbone of the Air Combat Element to which all the other attachments fall under,” said Lt. Col. Damien Marsh, the commanding officer of the ACE, 31st MEU. “It’s our job to provide aviation support to the battalion landing team and the 31st MEU as a whole.”
The squadron provides the 31st MEU with multiple capabilities, ranging from close air support from AH-1W Cobra helicopters, to medium lift transport with the CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters, and even heavy lift capabilities with CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters.
According to Marsh, while with the 31st MEU, the number one priority is to never fail the BLT or the MEU, understanding that teamwork is the key to mission success.
While with the MEU, the Marines of HMM 265 (Rein) have to overcome many challenges. Just landing on USS Essex (LHD 2) when the squadron joined the MEU proved to be a challenge.
“When the ship is pitching and rolling the sight pictures in the cockpit are a little different than the one we are used to,” said Capt. Joseph Scheler, a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter pilot with HMM 265 (Rein), 31st MEU. “We just rely on the crew chiefs to give us a nice call down to the deck, they’ll let us know if were drifting off target or not.”
Like the experience gained from landing on a moving vessel, the Marines of HMM 265 (Rein) also gain valuable skills during their deployment with the 31st MEU.
While the squadron is with the 31st MEU, it has the ability to work with the ground units more closely and frequently, conducting helicopter raids and transport missions in support of the infantry.
“The longer we are with the MEU the better the training is that we will get, and the greater our mission readiness becomes,” said Marsh.
As the 31st MEU begins its certification exercises, the Marines and Sailors of HMM 265 (Rein) remain ready to support the 31st MEU as directed, including participation in future theater security exercises.
With the ACE on board, 31st MEU provides a forward-deployed, flexible sea-based force capable of conducting amphibious operations, crisis response and limited contingency operations in the Asia-Pacific area. The 31st MEU is the only continually forward-deployed MEU, and remains the nation’s force-in-readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.
Article by Cpl. Garry J. Welch, 31st MEU