MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. -- MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. – With a final roar of their engines and a downward blast of rotor wash, the Marines of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 366 lifted off the runway at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, Oct. 27, ending 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing’s tactical combat support in Helmand Province.
Departing with eight CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters, and the final contingent of U.S. forces to leave the embattled region, the Marines of HMH-366 flew east to Kandahar Air Base, ending the International Security Assistance Force’s operational control in Helmand Province.
After three weeks in transit, the Hammerheads returned to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., Nov. 17, recalling their historic contributions to a Southwestern Afghanistan secured solely by Afghans.
“We took 212 people with us. We supported the infantry Marines in the Helmand Province and one of our biggest missions was clearing out Camp Bastion as the last Marines there,” said Lt. Col. Charles F. Megown, commanding officer. “We handed Camp Bastion over to the Afghans and that closed down Regional Command Southwest.”
Amidst waving signs and cheers, the Marines of the squadron embraced loved ones and posed for pictures, marking the end of an 18-month deployment cycle. The squadron spent more than a year stateside preparing to deploy then four-months supporting the last infantry units in Helmand Province, according to Megown, a native of Jacksonville, N.C.
“These Marines have been building up for this the past 18-months,” said Megown. “The Marines worked phenomenally together and kept the aircraft flying all the time, which is the big mission of our squadron. Every Marine from the (most junior Marines) up through the entire staff worked great over the last five months. I’m very proud.”
During the deployment, the squadron moved several times throughout Southwestern and Southern Afghanistan, according to Sgt. Maj. Kevin F. Wiss, the squadron sergeant major. The Marines of the squadron adapted to each change with little interruption, and are proud to return under the squadron’s return call-sign, Closeout.
“I think, especially for some of the young Marines and seeing the smiles on their faces waiting to get off the bus ready to see their families, it’s wonderful,” said Wiss.