Wednesday, April 15, 2009

US Marines Final MV-22 Deployment Closes Book on Operation Iraqi Freedom Legacy

In this file photo, MV-22 Ospreys with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron-162 land in Amman, Jordan, July 22, 2008. The deployment of the MV-22 Osprey in Operation Iraqi Freedom is coming to a close as the final Marine Medium Tilt-rotor Squadron prepares to head home this spring. (Photo by Cpl. George Papastrat, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.)

Dispatches from the Front:

AL ASAD AIR BASE, April 15, 2009 -- The presence of the MV-22 Osprey in Operation Iraqi Freedom is coming to a close as the final Marine Medium Tilt-rotor Squadron prepares to head home this spring.

The Marines of Marine Medium Tilt-rotor squadron (VMM)-266, also known as the Fighting Griffins, have spent every day since their End of Mission Ceremony, April 1, preparing themselves and the aircraft they fly to redeploy home after approximately six months of successful combat support operations here.

During their deployment, the squadron flew approximately 3,040 hours, hauled nearly 418,000 pounds of cargo and transported around 15,800 passengers. The maintenance Marines of VMM-266 kept their wrenches turning 24 hours a day for the entire deployment to keep the aircraft ready for operations.

"All the Marines performed their parts without a hitch," said Maj. Brian McAvoy, the executive officer of VMM-266. "Watching it all come together each day is a huge credit to the Marines here."

The Fighting Griffins are the last of three Osprey squadrons to deploy to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Throughout their deployment, the Fighting Griffins have added to the success of previous squadrons raising the number of total cargo, passengers and flight hours the Osprey has flown.

"The Marines have done great proving the capabilities of the Osprey in a deployed environment," explained Lt. Col. Christopher Seymour, the commanding officer of VMM-266.

The experience gained from VMM-266's deployment, coupled with the contributions of VMM-263 and VMM-162, has taught the Osprey community a great deal about the aircraft, which has quickly become a new source of pride in Marine Corps aviation.

The deployments have tested the aircraft's flight capabilities, pushing the parameters in which it is safe to fly the aircraft and have proven the maneuverability of the aircraft in threat scenarios.

"The aircraft was able to test under fire and it, as well as the pilots, proved themselves," said McAvoy. "The Osprey platform has passed the test of survivability. The experience we got here is vital to the growth of the aircraft."

While three Osprey squadron's personnel have rotated in and out of Iraq since September 2007, the aircraft they have been flying have remained in country the entire time, traded between each incoming squadron. This extended stay for the flying machines has shown maintenance Marines what parts of the aircraft can withstand the harsh environment, and which parts show quicker wear, according to Maj. Michael Boorstein, the VMM-266 maintenance department officer-in-charge.

The Fighting Griffins are now spending their days aboard Al Asad Air Base preparing the aircraft to redeploy. To ensure the aircraft is ready to go home, the Marines will complete maintenance on major components of the aircraft, perform quality assurance inspections and complete a thorough cleaning of each aircraft's interior and exterior, according to Gunnery Sgt. William Jankowski, the quality assurance chief with VMM-266.

As the posture improves in OIF and the forces begin a responsible drawdown, the Osprey squadron anticipates getting back to the Marine Corps' amphibious role as well as the possibility of supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, said McAvoy.

"It feels like we have closed the chapter of this Osprey story well," McAvoy said. "We did it well here and we are going to go do it somewhere else well."

(Report by Cpl. Ryan Young, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing)

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