Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron-1 [VMU-1]
The Marine Corps activated the 1st Remotely Piloted Vehicle (RPV) Company on 21 January 1987 at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California, and was assigned to the 7th Marine Amphibious Brigade. The original contingent consisted of three officers and nine enlisted personnel under the command of Captain Timothy B. Howard, USMC. Since the Marine Corps was breaking new ground in expanding the capabilities of the Marine Air Ground Task Force, the unit was at first comprised of Marines gathered ad hoc from the Marine Corps as a whole. The 1st RPV Company made its home at Seagle Outlying Field, named in honor of the late Capt Jeb F. Seagle, USMCR.
The squadron was reassigned during December 1987 to 1st Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Intelligence Group.
The 1st RPV Company deployed for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm from September 1990 to Mach 1991. Along with UAV units from its sister services, the 1st RPV Company employed the Pioneer in over 300 combat missions, validating the utility and effectiveness of UAV operations.
On 6 January 1994, the 1st and 3rd RPV Companies were merged to form the 1st Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Company. On 16 January 1996, the 1st Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Company was redesignated at the Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 (VMU-1) and assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. This redesignation brought the Marine UAV program under the formal auspices of the Marine Naval Aviation Program, which formalized its training, maintenance and procurement systems.
From June through October 1996, VMU-1 participated in Operation Joint Endeavor in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In January 2000, VMU-1 was reassigned to Marine Air Control Group 38.
VMU-1 operates and maintains an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) system to provide unmanned aerial reconnaissance support to the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF). Our main task is to provide airborne reconnaissance to assist in intelligence preparation of the battlefield, provide early indications and warning of enemy attack, assess targets both pre- and post-strike for battle damage assessment, and adjust indirect fire support weapons such as artillery and naval gunfire. Additionally, VMU-1 supports rear area security, search and rescue, and tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel operations.
VMU-1 provides this support with the Pioneer Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. Pioneer provides the tactical commander with imagery intelligence to enable force deployment decisions. Imagery can be used to adjust naval gunfire, direct friendly ground forces toward an enemy position, or even assess own forces positions and camouflage discipline.
Since its commissioning in 1987, with only a handful of Marines, VMU-1 has grown to a full-sized Marine Aviation Squadron with about 150 Marines and Sailors.
VMU-1 is organized as a standard Marine aviation squadron with standard staff sections (S-1, S-3, S-4, and Aircraft Maintenance). Among aviation squadrons, VMU-1 is unique in that it has an organic S-2 section to provide initial imagery interpretation and analysis, a full Motor Transport Section within the S-4 to maintain our organic transportation assets, and a communications section to provide the vital connectivity between the Pioneer command unit and the supported MAGTF Command Element.
VMU-1 also provides personnel for various operational testing and assessments for follow-on UAV systems. As of early 2001, VMU-1 had recently been selected as the initial squadron to field the Vertical Takeoff and Landing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, which is slated to replace Pioneer in the near future.
Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 surpassed the old standard of annual flight hours by a country mile while supporting Operation Southern Watch and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Pioneer squadrons are usually allotted only 200 hours of flight time per fiscal year. To fly 1000 hours in nine months is a remarkable feat considering the unit had to move many times through Kuwait and Iraq in support of Operation Southern Watch and Operation Iraqi Freedom. The unit has been supporting operations in Kuwait and Iraq since the end of February. During this time the squadron flew about 900 hours. Throughout Operation Southern Watch and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the unit worked tirelessly to keep the Pioneers up in the sky, which provided valuable information to the troops on the ground.
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