USS BATAAN --
Marines and aircraft with Marine Tilt Rotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced), 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, arrived aboard USS Bataan in preparation for deployment, March 31-April 1, 2011.
One-by-one the aircraft, including the MEU’s MV-22B Ospreys, CH-53E Super Stallions, AV-8B Harriers, UH-1N Hueys and AH-1W Cobras, carefully landed aboard the ship – overcoming unpredictable wind gusts, the swaying ship and tight landing zones.
In suspenseful approaches, the aircraft hovered over directional markers on the flight deck, battled the wind and slowly placed their landing gear on the markers with remarkable precision.
Corporal Charles L. Hayes, 21, a supply specialist with VMM-263 (REIN), 22nd MEU, and Wilson, N.C., native, said his first flight and shipboard landing in an MV-22B Osprey was a gripping ride.
“The actual flight was a little bumpy; a little shaky, but it was a lot smoother than I thought,” Hayes said.
During the landing, Hayes said the final approach “felt like a rollercoaster.”
After helicopters and tilt-rotor aircraft landed, Marines and sailors manning the flight deck rushed to the aircraft to secure landing gears, safely unload personnel and supplies, and conduct routine checks.
Once the rotary-wing and tilt-rotor aircraft pilots cut power to aircraft engines, the flight crews mechanically folded rotors and wings for staging – a sight resembling slow-motion scenes from the Transformers film series. Meanwhile, compressed aircraft were staged side-by-side away from the landing zone.
Aircraft were later lowered into Bataan’s hangar deck using massive platform elevators – ultimately clearing precious space on the flight deck above.
The squadron’s tilt-rotor Ospreys are supplemented with additional aircraft, capable of providing heavy-lift and attack support for deployment variety of missions. Before USS Bataan departs the east coast for the Mediterranean Sea, the VMM-263 “Thunder Chickens” will participate in landing deck qualification exercises to practice mission support to embarked forces.
The Marines and sailors of the 22nd MEU are currently deployed with Amphibious Squadron 6 aboard the USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and will continue to train and test the MEU’s ability to operate as a cohesive and effective Marine Air Ground Task Force.
The 22nd MEU is a multi-mission capable force comprised of Aviation Combat Element, Marine Tilt Rotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; and its Command Element.