MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
Families and friends waited in darkness for the busses to arrive. Months had gone by since they had seen their Marines. The suspense built as headlights approach from the distance.
After an approximately six-month deployment with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 (Reinforced), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, in Okinawa, Japan, a detachment of Marines and Sailors from Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 467 returned to their families and friends Dec. 11.
The deployment with Japan-based 31st MEU was the first for an East Coast HMLA squadron said Lt. Col. Bill Bartolomea, commanding officer for HMLA-467.
“We do deploy as part of the east coast MEUs routinely,” said Barolomea. “This was a unique opportunity to join III Marine Expeditionary Force and conduct real-world expeditionary operations in the Pacific Theater.”
Capt. Gregory Sanders, an AH-1 Cobra pilot for HMLA-467 served as administration officer with HMM-265 (Rein.), during the 31st MEU deployment.
“On the 31st MEU we provided the means for close-air support and the capabilities for armed escorts,” said Sanders. “Usually the west coast tiltrotor units deploy with the 31st MEU, but because those units were busy in Afghanistan we were tasked with the mission.”
HMLA-467 is a newer squadron to 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. Since it’s induction to the 2nd MAW the squadron has only been on three separate deployments said Sanders.
“It feels good to be home,” said Sanders. “I always miss my family when I’m away from them. It’s good to be back home, to be back with the squadron and to be getting back to training.”
Bartolomea said he looks forward to meeting the Marines and Sailors from the detachment.
“They departed before I came aboard, so it will be great to put faces to names,” Bartolomea said. “From an operational (standpoint), with different training environments and venues, come different perspectives.
“I look forward to leveraging the unique experiences of our 31st MEU detachment for the betterment of the squadron as a whole.”
The unit has provided humanitarian assistance in Haiti with the 22nd MEU based out of Camp Lejeune. A detachment from HMLA-467 attached to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 266 (Reinforced), 26th MEU from March 2010 to May 2011. The 26th MEU deployed early to support humanitarian efforts in Pakistan and supported strikes in Libya during the deployment.
“467 will be going on the 26th MEU again here in the near future,” said Sanders. “We are starting to get in a regular cycle of supporting the Marine Air-Ground Task Forces.”