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Two CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 (Reinforced), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, taxi across a runway after completing a training exercise, June 14. The squadron recently attached to the 31st MEU as the incoming air combat element, and will be providing support throughout future deployments. The 31st MEU is the only continually forward-deployed MEU, and remains the nation’s force-in-readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Garry J. Welch

Dragons join 31st MEU

16 Jun 2011 | Lance Cpl. Garry J. Welch

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 (Reinforced), known as the ‘Dragons,’ attached to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit June 13, as the MEU’s incoming air combat element.

“Our mission will be to provide the best possible service for 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, and the 31st MEU that we possibly can,” said Sgt. Maj. Russell A. Strack, the squadron sergeant major. “We will complete every mission that we are tasked with to the best of our abilities during our time spent supporting the MEU.”

HMM-265 (Reinforced), based out of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan, was last attached to the MEU in August of 2009, and participated in multiple exercises and a humanitarian aid and disaster relief operation after an earthquake struck the Republic of the Philippines.

The Dragons also participated in Operation Tomodachi in March, flying hundreds of humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations over a period of eight weeks.

“This is the second deployment with the MEU for a lot of Marines,” said Strack. “For some it’s even the third, but even with that in mind every Marine going on this deployment will have the opportunity to better themselves within their profession, and broaden their skill sets.”

“I am really looking forward to the experience,” said Lance Cpl. Nekorey A. Moorer, a supply clerk with HMM-265 (Reinforced), 31st MEU. “I’ve never been on ship before, and I’ve never been to a lot of the other places we’ll be going. It’s going to be a good way to gain experience.”

In addition to giving the Dragons valuable experience, this deployment will also be a historical one for the squadron.

“This is the final deployment this squadron will make as a Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron,” said Strack. “Once we complete this and come back to Okinawa, we are scheduled to transition into becoming a VMM [Marine Medium Tilt-Rotor] Squadron.”

As a tilt rotor squadron, HMM-265 (Reinforced) would field the new MV-22 Ospreys, which would greatly increase their capabilities.

Until the transition to the Osprey occurs, the squadron will be operating their standard CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters.

For the upcoming deployment with the 31st MEU, the unit is reinforced with more aircraft from units within the United States that bring additional capability to the squadron.

A detachment from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465 provides the HMM-265 (Reinforced) with about 50 Marines and CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters.

Also, a portion of Marine Helicopter Light Attack Squadron 467 attached to HMM-265 (Reinforced) provides them with another 50 Marines, UH-1N Twin Huey helicopters, and AH-1W Super Cobra Attack helicopters for about six months.

Finally, Marine Attack Squadron 214 will soon arrive and add more than 100 Marines and AV-8B Harriers to the ACE.

“This squadron has a proven performance record in expeditionary operations. Now, we are looking forward to serving as the ACE of the 31st MEU. Our reinforcements come from excellent squadrons on east coast, west coast, Yuma, and across Japan. Together as an ACE, we plan to become the standard bearer of amphibious readiness,” said Lt. Col. Damien M. Marsh, the commanding officer of the ACE. “As we begin this deployment I am confident every Marine and Sailor in the ACE will work hard to hold the legacy of the Dragons and the MEU.”

The 31st MEU is the only continually forward-deployed MEU, and remains the nation’s force-in-readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.

31st Marine Expeditionary Unit