CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan --
The gentle thump of helicopter blades wafts over a formation of Marines at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan.
In a ceremony just before dawn, the Marines of Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 assumed the mission of ensuring that sound never stops.
Support squadrons complete a number of missions on the ground to keep the aircraft of 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) flying. This includes refueling jets and helicopters, aircraft rescue firefighting, construction and motor transport support.
Marine Wing Support Squadron 272, based in New River, N.C., carried out those tasks until early October when they relinquished command to Marine Wing Support Squadron 371, deployed from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz.
Lt. Col. Dale Kruse, the Marine Wing Support Squadron 272 commanding officer, led his squadron in support of 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) for more than six months.
“It’s been a highly productive deployment,” said Kruse, a native of Morenci, Mich “Not only have the Marines exceptionally executed our standard missions, they’ve also been part of several large-scale building operations.”
Support squadrons expand the reach of 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) by creating landing zones, expeditionary airfields, and forward arming and refueling points.
These support squadron projects allow British and U.S. Marine Corps aircraft to fly farther and stay in the air longer supporting coalition troops in southwestern Afghanistan.
While deployed to Afghanistan, Marine Wing Support Squadron 272 added taxiways to the runway of Camp Bastion, created a runway for unmanned aerial vehicles at Camp Leatherneck, and built dozens helicopter landing zones, dotting the Helmand River valley.
“Each day we’d start fresh and start a mission knowing there’d be one right after it,” said Kruse. “That was a great motivating factor.”
Though Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 deployed to Afghanistan two years ago, they will support a much larger force in this deployment.
Lt. Col. Michael Prosser, the squadron’s commanding officer, and a native of Golden, Colo., said his Marines are ready for the challenge.
Prosser, who first deployed to Afghanistan in 2001, said the progress the country has made is noticeable.
“Afghanistan’s lights are on now,” he said. “When I flew here in 2001, not a lot of power was up. When you fly around now, you get to see the lights.
“My plan is to capitalize on the success of previous [squadrons] using their achievements as a model for my team to emulate,” Prosser said. “We intend to support combined teams and assets at multiple locations to ensure the aviation combat element is prepared to provide the Marine Air-Ground Task Force with the most efficient and effective air support.”
Connect with 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) throughout the deployment. Stay up to date with the latest 2nd MAW (Fwd.) news, photos and videos at http://www.facebook.com/2ndmawfwd.