Skip to comments.Marines taking over for Army in Iraq
Posted on 02/26/2004 4:42:27 PM PST by Ragtime Cowgirl
|Marines taking over for Army in Iraq
By Scott Schonauer, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Thursday, February 26, 2004
AL-ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq Once they crossed the Kuwaiti border into Iraq, the Marine helicopters flew so low over the desert that their wake ruffled tents and scared livestock.
A goat herder saw the dual- rotor CH-46s approach from the south and gave a long, slow wave.
The gesture surprised the pilots and crew, who braced for bullets instead of a friendly welcome.
That was relieving, to see that, said 1st Lt. Eric Sandberg, a pilot with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261. Were flying over people at 50 feet above their house and theyre waving. That was pretty cool.
Not everyone in Iraq is going to be that accepting, and Marine pilots know it.
About 25,000 Marines are streaming into western Iraq to take over security and rebuilding duties from the Army. Members of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 and Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 167 are the first Marine aviation units to arrive at Al-Asad Air Base.
The sprawling former Iraqi air force base about 110 miles west of Baghdad is home to the Armys 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, but will soon be the nerve center for the 3rd Marine Air Wing.
While some Marines rotating into Iraq helped topple Saddam Husseins regime last year, most with the New River, N.C.-based Squadron 261, nicknamed the Raging Bulls, have never been to Iraq, let alone on a real mission.
Some pilots and crewmembers have fewer than five years of flight time in the CH-46 and werent even born when the CH-47 was first introduced to the military 30 years ago.
Sandberg, 25, of East North Port, N.Y., has only eight months of flight time in the CH-46 and looks at the seven-month deployment as an opportunity to actually get a chance to do your job.
This is what weve been training for, he said. Some guys spend their whole career and never go anywhere or do anything.
The Marines have trained for months for this moment.
Many heading to the Middle East practiced in the arid region of Yuma, Ariz., with simulated surface-to-air missiles.
Were all pretty much eager to do our jobs, said Staff Sgt. Marvin Clark, who also read Lawrence of Arabia several times before the Marines launched off the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan on Friday for a dusty staging base in Kuwait.
The main mission of the Bulls will be to supply Marines at smaller bases scattered throughout the region and transport casualties to medical teams. Part of the area they will operate in is the menacing city of Fallujah, where insurgents have shot down at least three other Army helicopters.
The Marine squadrons have upgraded defensive equipment and implemented different tactics to counter possible attacks. But that doesnt mean the pilots and crewmembers do not think about the risks.
Its really in the forefront of my mind, said pilot Maj. Brian Wiktorek, who is married and has four children. Were sending crews out there against a valid threat and thats why we spend so much time training to really beat that threat.
The squadrons have a ton of work ahead before they take over for the Army aviators, who have been in Iraq for months.
First, they need to learn the lay of the land. While Marines and soldiers have conflicting philosophies on how to go about the same missions, squadrons from both services have planned to meet this week to exchange tips and tactics.
There is plenty to learn, but the Marines aim to fly real missions in about a week, said Lt. Mike Belding, the squadron commander.
And the coming days will serve as a real test for many in the unit, especially the junior pilots and crewmembers.
When we leave here, the young guys will be better than their peer group because of the experiences they will have, Belding said.
A goat herder saw the dual- rotor CH-46s approach from the south and gave a long, slow wave.Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 and Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 167 are the first Marine aviation units to arrive at Al-Asad Air Base.
I wish them good luck and God's protection.
Damn, I like that tagline!
That is just an awesome picture.
From half a world away we put that kind of a force
in the desert where only a camel could be happy!
They're in the right place. It's a good mission.
May God bless our Marines..............FRegards
No other country can do this 12,000 miles away from home. Our Navy and Marines do it.
Go Marines! Do you usual great job and God Speed!
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