By Cpl. Jesus Sepulveda Torres, Marine Corps Base Hawaii
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, HI -- From the land down under, where kangaroos and koalas call home, MV-22B Osprey aircraft with their crews arrived back in Hawaii from their deployment with Marine Rotational Force, Darwin, Australia.
U.S. Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron VMM 268 nicknamed the “Red Dragons,” returned from a 6-month deployment to Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Sept. 19, 2017. The “Red Dragons” supported the Australian Defence Force as the aviation combat element for the Marine Air-Ground Task Force.
Crossing over 5,300 nautical miles with air refueling, VMM-268 was also the first osprey squadron to complete the journey from Hawaii to Australia and back.
Col. Christopher Patton, the commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 24, said multiple squadrons from Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay deployed to Australia to support the ADF and to be part of the aviation combat element of the MAGTF. He also said that this is an annual deployment to help improve the partnership and training between the two nations.
Several elements with MAG-24 deployed to Darwin, which included four MV-22B Osprey aircraft from VMM-268, five AH-1W Super Cobras and four UH-1Y Venom helicopters with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367, elements of Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 24 and Marine Wing Support Detachment 24.
Patton said the Trans-Pacific flight of Ospreys is a milestone for the United States and its allies in the Western Pacific.
Lt. Col. Patrick Robinson, the commanding officer of VMM-268, said the 5,300 nautical mile flight was historic for being the very first for Osprey aircraft.
“Not only was it historic, but it showed how this aircraft in Hawaii is operationally relevant to any crisis in the Pacific,” he said. “We can go anywhere, and this flight shows the importance of having this aircraft active and here.”
Capt. Joseph Raines, a pilot training officer with VMM-268, completed the trans-Pacific flight as one of the Osprey pilots, and also said it was a good training opportunity to support the ADF and show case the squadrons capabilities.
“We flew from Darwin to Guam to Wake Island to here in about 21 hours, which shows the reach of our air assets and the huge distances we can cover in such a short time,” he said. “While in Australia, we integrated with the ADF to make us better war fighters and the results of our partnership will show on the battlefield.”
Patton said having the capabilities of Ospreys in Hawaii deter enemies and let allies know Marines have the means of reaching greater distances during a time of crisis or conflict.
“This is strategically significant because anyone who wants to be an adversary will find out that the U.S. Marine Corps can now aggregate power anywhere in the Western Pacific in a matter of days,” he said. “No shipping required, we just pack up and fly straight there.”