AL ASAD AIRFIELD, Iraq -- Marines and sailors poured from the back of assault helicopters to a familiar place last week as Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced) returned to western Iraq prepared to assist in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
For many of the “Raging Bull” aircrew and maintainers, the airfield at Al Asad is quite familiar. Nearly half of the squadron’s Marines operated at the sprawling Iraqi air base for nearly seven months last year.
The composite squadron is currently deployed as the aviation combat element of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable). While in Iraq, the squadron will work under the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing for operations, with the rest of the 22nd MEU (SOC) operating with the 2nd Marine Division, which has been in Iraq for just under a year.
Cpl. Jacob McGuire, from Milwaukee, Wisc., is on his second trip to Iraq. After his aircraft landed on one of the vast taxiways, the CH-46E Sea Knight crew chief described the flight from USS Nassau in the northern Arabian Gulf to western Iraq as “quiet,” and then quickly climbed up on top of the aircraft and began inspecting his helicopter.
“Now that we have arrived, we have to get these helicopters ready to go again, just in case we are needed tonight,” McGuire said.
In addition to its organic complement of Sea Knights, the squadron also flies CH-53E Super Stallion heavy lift assault, AH-1W Super Cobra attack, and UH-1N utility helicopters, all of which arrived at Al Asad the same day as the CH-46Es. The squadron’s detachment of AV-8B Harrier II attack jets flew into the airfield a day before the helicopters arrived.
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. The MEU is currently deployed to Iraq’s Al Anbar province.
For more information on the 22nd MEU (SOC)’s role in Operation Iraqi Freedom, visit the unit’s web site at http://www.22meu.usmc.mil.