ABOARD THE USS NASSAU -- Aboard amphibious assault ships, there is no sound as distinctive as an AV-8B Harrier II attack jet speeding down the flight deck. The roar of the aircraft’s Rolls Royce turbofan engine reverberates to even the lowest levels of the ship, and can be positively deafening to those nearby.
As the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) continues to steam toward potential combat operations, this sound is seemingly ever present as the unit’s aviation combat element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced), grabs every opportunity to put its complement of Harriers to the skies for training missions.
The Marine Corps first began using the Harrier in 1985 shortly after its combat debut in the hands of British pilots during the 1982 Falkland Islands War. Since then, Marine aviators have flown updated versions of the aircraft with great success throughout the world, racking up an impressive combat resume in Operations Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom.
Unique in its ability to conduct short, and even vertical take offs and landings, the Harrier’s range, speed, and impressive armament capability gives the MEU its long range strike and reconnaissance capability.
In addition to HMM-261 (Rein), the 22nd MEU (SOC) consists of its Command Element, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 2nd Marines, and MEU Service Support Group 22.
For more information on the MEU, visit the unit’s web site at http://www.22meu.usmc.mil.