USS ESSEX AT SEA (Sept. 9, 2010) --
The Aviation Combat Element of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit flew aboard the forward-deployed ships USS Essex (LHD 2) and the USS Denver (LPD9), Sept. 7.
Equipment, gear and personnel were all pre-staged at Marine Air Station Futenma, Okinawa before the fly-on. The pilots then moved the aircraft aboard the ships of Amphibious Group 11 in waves.
According to Capt. Bradley Gibson, HMM-262 (REIN) air embarkation officer, the fly-on went smooth and gave the squadron a great start to the deployment.
“It can be difficult moving different aircraft at the same time because of the diverse procedures in each,” he said. “It is exciting to see all these moving parts working together efficiently and it gives us a good sense of how the patrol will go.”
The ACE is comprised of a rotary squadron, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262, reinforced with elements from a fixed-wing squadron, Marine Wing Attack Squadron 542.
The two units combined to fly CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters, CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters, AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters, UH-1N Huey helicopters and AV-8B Harrier jets onto the ships of Amphibious Squadron 11.
Along with aircraft the ACE also loaded and flew more than 30 passengers and 70,000 pounds of equipment onto the Essex.
Aviation Marines teamed with Navy boatswain’s mates to get the job done. The Navy team provided support to the landing Marine aircraft as they worked the ships’ flight decks with air traffic controllers, fuel specialists, a chain crew used to secure the aircraft to the ship, and a crash and rescue team.
The 31st MEU and Amphibious Squadron 11 are currently preparing for several exercises designed to meet with the units’ annual requirements. The units’ are also slated to participate in the bilateral exercises Amphibious Landing Exercise 2011 in the Republic of the Philippines and the Korean Incremental Training Program in the Republic of Korea to enhance Theater Security Cooperation.