MARINE CORPS AIR STATION NEW RIVER, N.C. -- When the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit received its Special Operations Capable designation in early July some of the Marines in the Aviation Combat Element set a new precedent for the Marine Corps Reserves.
After receiving their activation order and attaching to the MEU, the Marines of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 772, from Willow Grove, Pa., were among the first reserve squadrons in the Marine Corps to receive the coveted SOC designation.
The squadron was activated Jan. 28 and integrated its CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters into Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263, the MEU's composite aviation squadron.
"After our activation, we arrived at New River on February 19 and hit the ground running," said Lt. Col. James C. Garman, commanding officer, HMH-772. "We were involved in every exercise of the predeployment training program."
Since HMH-772 is a reserve squadron, some people may have expected them to be a step behind, but that was not the case, said Garman.
"We came in here with a lot of seniority and experience," said Garman. "In our squadron we have someone, somewhere, who has been there through everything that has happened since Desert Storm. With that experience and our capabilities, our spool up time was minimal. We just needed a short amount of time to adjust to the MEU."
"These guys are well-led, well-trained, and came in here with the right mindset," added Lt. Col. John C. Kennedy, commanding officer, HMM-263. "They have the enthusiasm and desire to do well."
The need for just a short period of adjustment was due in part to the fact that reserve Marines go through the same training as their active duty counterparts.
"All reserve units have the same of level of readiness as the active duty," said Garman. "We just do our training at a different pace."
"I feel our integration went well," said Kennedy. "They came in here ready to go and with the want to do, all we had to do was shake out a few cobwebs. Besides, our pace was so fast they didn't have time to complain even if they wanted too."
Another factor that made the adjustment to the MEU smooth was the fact that the Marines of HMH-772 are very happy to be here. "Our motivation level is very high right now," said Garman. "Our people want to be here. A lot of them left behind jobs and are proud to show the reserves are trained, capable and ready to answer the call."
"Unfortunately the MEU is only taking about 100 Marines from our squadron on the deployment with them, so there are a few Marines who will be here at New River (who) are disappointed not to be going," said Garman.
Even though not all of the squadron is stepping off with the MEU in late August, the ones who are may be setting the example for all Marine Reserve units to follow.
"These guys have done exactly what reserve Marines are supposed to do," said Kennedy. "They came in and executed as briefed. I think they are great advertisement for the reserve program."