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California UAV squadron takes over in southwestern Afghanistan as Carolina Marines head home

US Marine Corps News

5/9/2011 By Cpl. Samantha H. Arrington, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd)

CAMP DWYER, Afghanistan — A new Marine Corps unmanned aerial vehicle squadron took responsibility for supporting Marines and coalition troops in southwestern Afghanistan with aerial surveillance, May 7.

Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 3, deployed out of Twentynine Palms, Calif., will now provide Marine Corps UAV support in Nimroz and Helmand provinces using the RQ-7B Shadow and Boeing ScanEagle UAV’s.

“I believe we provided a good changeover for VMU-3 to set them up for success,” said Lt. Col. Mikel R. Huber, the commanding officer of VMU-2. “I hope they take everything we worked for and build upon it.”

With turnover complete, the outgoing squadron, VMU-2, will prepare to return home to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.

“The Marines did a great job out here,” said Huber. “Now it’s time to go home so the Marines can take some much deserved rest.”

VMU-3, established in 2008, is one of the youngest squadrons in the Marine Corps, but has already completed one deployment to Afghanistan.

“We want to show and demonstrate the capabilities of our new squadron and the Shadow,” said VMU-3 executive officer Maj. Matt L. Walker, a native of Breckenridge, Colo. “We’ve got a great team of Marines, from our most junior Marines to our commanding officer, to do this.”

Though the squadron is one of the newest in the Marine Corps, the VMU-3 leadership said professional experience will help provide support to grunts on the ground.

“I have deployed five other times using UAVs,” said Sgt. Chad D. John, an unmanned aerial vehicle operator with VMU-3, and a native of Shiprock, N.M. “I used an older UAV, the Pioneer, before I operated the Shadow. This new UAV has great capabilities and offers great support for the troops on the ground.”

To help prepare for their deployment, VMU-3 vehicles logged more than 800 hours in training, including working with Marine Corps ground units slated to deploy.

“We did a lot of training prior to coming out here,” said the VMU-3 squadron sergeant major, Sgt. Maj. James Lee Johnson Jr., a native of El Paso, Texas. “A lot of units we trained with are deploying here. We were able to establish working relationships and rapport with them to better support their missions.”

Headquartered at Camp Dwyer, Afghanistan, deployed Marine Corps UAV squadrons use small, lightweight vehicles that are able to stay in the air for several hours to supply Marines and their coalition partners with aerial information throughout combat missions.

Additionally, Marine Corps unmanned aerial vehicle intelligence analysts within the UAV squadrons provide real-time aerial surveillance for troops on the ground using the ScanEagle and the RQ-7B Shadow unmanned aerial vehicles.