Photo Information

U.S. Marines with Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, conduct a live-fire exercise in the Philipine Sea, June 16, 2023. The purpose of the training was to enhance crew chief and pilot profeciency during defensive air combat maneuvers. The 31st MEU is operating aboard ships of the America Amphibious Ready Group in the 7th Fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with allies and partners and serve as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

Photo by Sgt. Marcos A. Alvarado

Vipers and Heavy Haulers Return Home from Indo-Pacific Deployment

1 Dec 2023 | Maj. Natalie Batcheler 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

The Marines and Sailors of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169 and Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, returned from deployments in support of the Unit Deployment Program and 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit to their home stations of Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton and MCAS Miramar, California, respectively, earlier this month.

The HMLA-169 "Vipers" and HMH-462 "Heavy Haulers" demonstrated adaptability and versatility by task-organizing their squadrons into elements for two different deployments each.

The Heavy Haulers also attached the remaining third of their squadron to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163, yielding a reinforced assault support squadron, which supported a bilateral exercise and relief efforts in the Philippines this summer.

"The Vipers executed an aggressive campaign that emphasized distributed operations across the Indo-Pacific theater," Lt. Col. Thomas Duff, commanding officer of HMLA-169.

UDP enhances the United States' forward presence and provides a consistent and rapid response capability. The program aims to maintain combat readiness, deter aggression, and strengthen alliances and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region. UDP reinforces the Marine Corps' ability to maneuver to key maritime terrain rapidly, establish resilient air command and control, and generate aviation combat power from distributed locations.

The 31st MEU is the Marine Corps' only permanently forward-deployed MEU and is the nation's expeditionary force in readiness in the Indo-Pacific region.

The Vipers' UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper aircraft and the Heavy Haulers' CH-53E Super Stallions operated across the Indo-Pacific, demonstrating the operational reach of Marine aviation.

They participated in exercises including Marine Aviation Support Activity, Talisman Sabre, Fuji Viper, Super Garuda Shield, and Korean Marine Exchange Program, and conducted training in Okinawa, including a variety of flight operations and qualifications; maritime integration; and joint and Marine Air-Ground Task Force integration.

"The Vipers executed an aggressive campaign that emphasized distributed operations across the Indo-Pacific theater," said Lt. Col. Thomas Duff, commanding officer of HMLA-169. "We utilized strategic airlift, amphibious shipping, and self-deploying detachments to support five bilateral exercises and enhance interoperability with our partners in the region."

Spie Rigging Photo by Cpl. Tyler M. Andrews
U.S. Marines with III Marine Expeditionary Force rappel from a UH-1Y Venom assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169 during special patrol insertion and extraction training at Landing Zone Starling, Camp Schwab, Okinawa, Japan, Sept. 21, 2023. Helicopter rope suspension techniques teach Marines proper knots, rappelling techniques and build confidence for maneuvering from air to ground.

The Vipers and Heavy Haulers played a key role in fostering relationships with allies and partners in the region, demonstrating a forward presence in the Indo-Pacific, and enhancing capabilities for mission sets across the range of military operations.

"Mobility is an identified challenge in the Western Pacific, specifically in the First Island Chain, that is crucial for the United States to promote regional stability and strengthen alliances with partner nations while in Great Power Competition," said Lt. Col. Jonathan Bryant, commanding officer of HMH-462. "Over the past seven months, the Marines and Sailors of HMH-462 met this challenge head-on by continuously demonstrating the Marine Corps' ability to conduct long-range assault support and heavy lift operations for III MEF as the Stand-In-Force in INDOPACOM."

Marines and assets from 3rd MAW, the largest wing in the Marine Corps, are constantly forward-deployed in support of operations and training around the globe. Ready to fight tonight and win, 3rd MAW is poised to respond when called upon.