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First time deployment for some exceeds expectations in Belize

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Many Marine recruiters promise young civilians the opportunity to see the world and travel to many foreign lands. For some, it is a deciding factor; for others, a pleasant bonus. For most, the first time traveling abroad is a memorable experience.

Several junior officers and enlisted Marines experienced their first visit to “any clime and place” when Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365 self-deployed to Belize in Central America with ground support from Marine Wing Support Squadron 271.

The pilots said the experience was unique because many had never before flown a MV-22B Osprey in mountainous jungle terrain.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to take the Osprey into different environments that we can’t necessarily duplicate in the U. S.,” said 1st Lt. Sean Stanley, the ground safety officer, naval aviation training and operating procedures officer, and a pilot on his first deployment outside of the continental U.S. with VMM-365. “It’s great to come out here and find these conditions and remote landing zones to really prove the capabilities of the Osprey, something we can’t always do in our limited flying environment in North Carolina. It’s been a lot of fun out here seeing what the Osprey can do in a place I’ve never been and an environment the Osprey has never been in.”

The main challenge of operating in a foreign country is that they usually don’t have the same level of infrastructure that America has. Belize is not a rich country and can’t build bases with the same amenities that Marine Corps bases have, so MWSS-271 Marines on their first deployments had to overcome challenges they had never faced before. The internet was a prime example.

“We build and maintain computer networks,” said Lance Cpl. David W. Kent, a data systems specialist for MWSS-271 and also a Marine on his first deployment outside of the continental U.S. “We started from the ground up so we ran all the lines and tested out the computers. The really hard part was that it’s our first time down here so we didn’t really know what to expect, what our parameters were or to what extent we would be supporting VMM-365. We didn’t know what abilities the facilities had being a British base on a Belize camp. It’s kind of like, ‘pack for the worst, hope for the best.’”

Both squadrons managed to plan some fun into their schedules. VMM-365 allowed both MWSS-271 and VMM-365 ground personnel the unique opportunity to ride in the back of their Ospreys. Also, Sept. 14 was set aside as a morale, welfare and recreation day. Enlisted and officers enjoyed visiting the Mayan ruins at Altun Ha, zip lining at Cave’s Branch Outpost Adventure, scuba diving and playing games at a local casino.

“Yesterday was pretty awesome,” said Lance Cpl. Brandi N. Rosser, an airframe mechanic for VMM-365 also on her first deployment. “We were supposed to go cave tubing but that was cancelled and I wasn’t really excited about zip lining, but it turned out to be pretty awesome. It was nice to get away from the flight line and do that.”

For VMM-365, mixing good times with hard work is part of what makes the squadron a more effective unit.

“Morale is key,” Stanley said. “You got to have high morale in order to keep your squadron moving. If you never reward anybody for their hard work, then they’re going to stop working for you. I think the MWR was key and our commanding officer does an awesome job in making sure there’s some fun built into our workday, which is why we succeed as a squadron.”

The first deployment is always an exciting time for Marines eager to experience the adventure part of military life.

“It was unbelizable,” Kent said, laughing.

Article by Lance Cpl. Scott L. Tomaszycki, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point