MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. (Jan. 25, 2012) --
Nearly 100 Marines from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 366 left Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point Wednesday morning for Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, where they will fall under Marine Aircraft Group 29.
"The unit's primary mission in Afghanistan is to conduct assault support," said Col. Scott S. Jensen, commanding officer of MAG-29. "Assault support will entail us supporting troops on the ground by providing troop movements and logistics."
The squadron boasts the Marine Corps' heaviest payload lifting helicopter, the CH-53E Super Stallion, which can also provide aerial refueling while being able to fly into dusty, remote areas.
"The unit will be using CH-53Es to lift things that no other helicopter in the world can lift," said Jensen.
The squadron will join forces with HMH-466, out of MCAS Miramar, Calif., and combined, the two squadrons will form 'HMH-America.'
"For the last couple of years we have been combining squadrons from the East and West Coast to fulfill the mission," said Jenson. "We did that because the other halves of the squadrons are currently serving other roles out on MEUs (Marine Expeditionary Units) and down in the Horn of Africa. The CH-53 community supports a lot of different missions throughout the world. They are a very high tempo outfit these days."
There can be drawbacks with combining squadrons, but Jensen said he feels they're mitigated through the pre-deployment training process.
"They go out to Enhanced Mohave Viper exercises and join together, thus ensuring they are ready to go out into combat as one unit," he said.
It helps too for many of the Marines that this isn’t their first deployment.
"I'm very excited," said Cpl. Houston J. Saffo, an aircraft maintenance administration clerk with HMH-366, who has deployed with the squadron twice before. "I think it's good our squadron deploys a lot, because it keeps everyone moving steadily and gives us the experience we need. The hardest part of this will be leaving my wife and daughter behind."
Saffo spent his last few moments in the squadron hangar kissing his daughter and comforting his crying wife.
"We are ready to get over there and assume our roles so that our brothers who have been there for seven months can come home to their families," said Jensen. "They are ready for this. They do their jobs, they work hard, and they want to do right. My Marines don't just personify that, they set the example."