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The good, the bad, the Ugly Angels

Marine Corps News


Story by Lance Cpl. Josh Hauser

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- The Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 362 Ugly Angels are wrapping up their final days of a six-month Unit Deployment Program tour at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni.

The Ugly Angels took full advantage of being the first full-sized CH-53D Sea Stallion squadron to be assigned here, and they leave with the experience needed to stay combat ready - confident that they could do it all over again at any time.

"We had two main goals coming out here as the first six-month UDP squadron," said Lt. Col. Douglas Wadsworth, HMH-362 commanding officer, "to successfully complete the Fish Hook series of exercises and set things up for future CH-53D squadrons coming to Iwakuni."

And the Ugly Angels did just that. Throughout various Landing Force Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training exercises, the squadron proved the Sea Stallion's ability to self-deploy long distances and tackle any task.

Exercise Balikatan, Cobra Gold and the LF CARAT's, took HMH-362 on a whirlwind tour of Southeast Asia. Places like the Philippines, Brunei, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore were just some of the stops the Marines encountered, all the while proving their combat readiness.

"Your average Marine doesn't join the Corps just to sit in one place," said Wadsworth. "This deployment has enabled our Marines to get the same experience in embarking the squadron and operating in an unfamiliar area as they would get in responding to a contingency."

Corporal Ely Ross, an Eagle River, Alaska, native and HMH-362 flight line technician, was just one of those Marines and couldn't agree more.

"This was a chance for us to get out there and really do our jobs," said Ross. "Shortly before we deployed we picked up about a dozen new Marines, and this was the perfect opportunity for us to work and get to know each other better. We were working with limited resources, but still accomplished the mission at hand, and we'll be taking a lot of experience back with us."

While half of the squadron was involved in the LF CARAT evolution, the other half was finding new and unique forms of training in the area. One of those discoveries was a small island nearby where pilots were able to practice a Confined Area Landing.

"Being one of the first helicopter squadrons to come to Iwakuni in a while, we had to go out and find training opportunities where we could," said Capt. Ted Hastings, HMH-362 assistant maintenance officer.

Before exploring the opportunities they did find, HMH-362 also had the dilemma of where to gain permission to train here, noted Wadsworth.

"It's a little more difficult to find available training areas in Japan," said Wadsworth. "We had to take geographical and population restraints into consideration and also decide how best to request training in different areas."

The Ugly Angels brought eight of their CH-53D Sea Stallions along with them to Iwakuni. However, HMH-362 is made up of much more than just helicopters. Operations, maintenance, logistics, safety and intelligence personnel are all needed on hand to support the aircraft and ultimately the mission.

"We've faced a variety of new challenges on this deployment," said Staff Sgt. Serge Reveau, HMH-362 operations chief. "We're actually laying the ground work for future squadrons and hope we've opened up new avenues for them when they get here."

The benefits of the deployment were tremendous, especially to the unit's younger Marines, according to the Brooklyn, New York native.

"Our Marines have done their jobs in a lot of different countries the past six months, and they realize how important their job is and what it involves," said Reveau. "It's an experience they'll pass on to Marines in the future and one they won't soon forget."

According to 19-year-old Lance Cpl. Chris Magnuson, HMH-362 air frame hydraulics technician, the training and sights of this deployment aren't comparable to anything he's ever known.

"I can't really describe how much we've realized about our jobs, ourselves and all the cultures we encountered," said the Ocala, Fla., native. "I think we've learned much more about the Marine Corps than any of us ever expected to on this trip."

Although the Ugly Angels are looking forward to getting back home, they wouldn't trade the experience of this deployment for anything, according to Wadsworth.

"The bottom line is that we couldn't have accomplished anything without every Marine's hard work and efforts," said Wadsworth. "In addition to great training and great places to visit came squadron unity and camaraderie. These Marines saw how much we have to rely on one another to get the job done."

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