31st MEU supports 13th MEU, MEDEVAC's critical Marine
By Lance Cpl. Jorge Rosales, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit
U.S. Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 (Reinforced) evacuated a Marine with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit after he became ill while aboard the USS Harper’s Ferry, Aug. 14, 2016.
While underway the Marine was diagnosed with a serious condition that can lead to kidney failure. A decision was made to evacuate the Marine with the life-threatening condition – and to call the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.
The crew with VMM-262, which is the Aviation Combat Element of the 31st MEU, flew an MV-22B Osprey from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma nearly 500 miles one way over water – landing aboard the Harper’s Ferry, which has only a small landing deck – to conduct the medical evacuation, bringing the critically ill Marine to the Naval Hospital at Camp Foster on Okinawa.
“VMM-262 is a permanently forward deployed Osprey squadron on Okinawa and is always ready to launch missions at a moment’s notice. The amount of effort shown from the aircrew, maintainers, installation support and the U.S. Navy was extraordinary,” said Capt. Andy Serpa, who was the co-pilot during the MEDEVAC. “Everyone jumped into action when we knew it was a Marine’s life on the line.”
“This is one of the many reasons we train, but we didn’t do this on our own,” said Serpa, recognizing the team effort, not only between the aircrew and maintenance, but also between VMM-262, the Navy’s Amphibious Ready Groups, and Japanese aircraft controllers.
“It was impressive to see the planning and coordination that is required to support the MEDEVAC of a critically ill patient come together in a matter of hours on a Sunday morning,” said Navy Lt. John Peters, the squadron flight doctor. “We identified what medical support might be required during the flight, and on short notice, two other medical personnel joined the aircrew for the flight.”
The Marines’ ability to integrate air, land, and sea assets gives the 31st MEU a wide range of options to accomplish assigned tasks, including lifesaving MEDEVACs. Moreover, the MV-22B gives VMM-262 and the 31st MEU a capability unmatched by any other aircraft to conduct long-range operations when speed is essential.
Speed was imperative when executing a mission that involved flying 1000 nautical miles over the Pacific Ocean, according to the squadron’s commanding officer, Lt. Col. Matthew A. Baldwin.
“All those involved in maintaining, launching and flying the aircraft that aided the ailing Marine were just glad to be able to assist our sister-MEU,” Baldwin said. “Our long-range capabilities as an Osprey squadron make us uniquely suited to support missions in the Pacific – whether launching from a ship or shore – anywhere in the Pacific region at a moment's notice.”