ABOARD USS WASP -- Editor's Note: LtCol. David Mollahan is the Commanding Officer of HMM-263.
He provided a commander's perspective after the 24th MEU(SOC) reached the midpoint of Landing Force Sixth Fleet Deployment 2000-2 (LF6F 2 - 00).
QUOTE: We've had a great impact. The first two exercises, particularly the second of the two - Dynamic Response , were very aviation intensive. During Dynamic Response we provided a great deal of support to the rest of the MEU in Kosovo while working out of our base camp at Camp Able Sentry, Macedonia. At the same time, we provided AV-8B fixed-wing support from aboard the ship. We also had a chance to integrate our CONUS standby KC-130s into the ACE's operations.
Some of the support we provided included troop assault support, artillery lift, convoy escort, air presence, and close air support. In addition, we exercised our aviation command and control, expeditionary airfield support and air defense capabilities. We did the kinds of things an ACE is supposed to do to support a [Marine Air Ground Combat Element], and I think we did them very well.
What we've done to this point is what any good, hard-charging Marine and Sailor wants to come out and do. Dynamic Response was probably the best example of this as it was not only an exercise that had a real-world "op" feel to it, but also because of the part of the world it took place in. In both Macedonia and Kosovo, as well as in Spain during Spanish Phiblex, we flew and operated in surroundings much different than we're used to back in NC. The terrain is different, and there's just a different feel because we know it's a foreign land. You see towns and villages that look different, and you meet and work with people who have different ways. It makes for a challenging but fulfilling experience.
It's been very rewarding for our Marines and Sailors to have gotten to do what they've done the first half of this deployment. What's been nice is we've had an excellent balance of things, and I think by-and-large, short of conducting an actual contingency, it has been the kind of deployment you'd like to see; good challenging exercises, a lot of flying, and then having a chance to get out on liberty to see the world and experience the different cultures up close.
I think it makes our Marines and Sailors feel good that they have had the opportunity to present themselves to the rest of the world, to our foreign allies. And I'll tell you, they present themselves honorably, with great pride, and enjoy showing the rest of the world that we are as good as our reputation says we are.
Rota is a two-fold operation. It's a maintenance and wash-down operation first. We're still recovering from the heavy flying we conducted in Macedonia and Kosovo during Dynamic Response. Rota gives us an advantage in that most of our repair parts coming into theater come through here first. Additionally, because of the airfield, Rota offers us a chance to conduct training that we cannot conduct as well from aboard ship such as familiarization-type training, check rides, emergency procedures training, and so forth. And for our Harrier pilots, they have been able to fly at a higher pace and with a higher sortie rate than can be accomplished from aboard ship. At the same time they have had the chance to conduct some bilateral training with the Spanish Harrier squadron based here.
Dynamic Mix is an amphibious exercise and so it will provide the perfect opportunity for the midshipmen that are about to board the ship to see a whole gamut of naval operations. They will get to see the Navy-Marine team in all its glory; with Navy surface and Marine aviation operations at sea supporting Marine ground operations ashore. It's about as ideal a situation as could be offered to a group of perspective Marine and Navy officers.
We're also looking beyond Dynamic Mix to shore-based training at Sigonella, if we can get approval to send a portion of the squadron ashore there. We are also looking forward to the great training opportunities that we'll have in the Ukraine and Israel.
Over all I'm extremely proud to command such a motivated, professional and hard working group of Marines and Sailors as comprise Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263, and I speak for every one of our Marines and Sailors when I say we're proud to be a part of the 24th MEU (SOC) and operating at the "tip of the spear." UNQUOTE.
Follow the 24th MEU (SOC) deployment on their website at www.usmc.mil/24meu.
LtCol. Mollahan's photo is posted below.