UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


'Wolfpack' comes home to Miramar 'den'

Marine Corps News

Release Date: 7/25/2003

Story by Lance Cpl. Paul Leicht

MCAS MIRAMAR, Calif.(July 22, 2003) -- Approximately 65 Marines arrived home here today from Okinawa, Japan, having achieved unprecedented success in support of III Marine Expeditionary Force operations throughout the Pacific Theater from July 2002 to July 2003. The majority of the Marines were from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 466.

Stepping off an Air Force KC-10 in front of Hangar 4 after a 10-hour, non-stop flight from Japan, the Marines were greeted by excited family members and loved-ones with smiles and tears of joy.

Initially part of the six-month Unit Deployment Program based out of Okinawa, HMH-466 extended an additional six months in support of escalating military operations worldwide, which left the Wolfpack of HMH-466 as one of the longest currently deployed units in the Marine Corps.

Keeping a high operational tempo during readiness inspections, evaluations, exercises, detachments and squadron training, HMH-466 thrived on the challenges over the previous year and maintained a high level of professionalism, unit excellence and performance.

"The squadron's performance during the deployment was awesome," said Lt. Col. Timothy L. Clubb, who served as commanding officer of HMH-466 during the extended deployment. "The Marines did a great job of motivating themselves and working together. They always kept focused on their mission."

When the Wolfpack of HMH-466 learned they would not be coming home after six months, maintaining high morale became the greatest challenge.

"The biggest obstacle was keeping the morale up once we found out we were staying," said Capt. Amy A. Kellstrand, 28, CH-53E pilot, HMH-466, from Abington, Mass. who came home with the advance party June 14. "I think it was probably hardest on the young Marines with expectant wives and those newly married, but Lt. Col. Clubb lead them in the right way and they stayed motivated."

The Wolfpack of HMH-466 proved that leadership--from the senior members of the squadron down to the most junior Marines--remains the cornerstone of its strength.

"The lower echelons did an excellent job of keeping themselves motivated," said Capt. Dana R. Brown, 30, S-3 officer, HMH-466, from Burlington, Mass. "The squadron's performance was great. They really got into a groove and did a fantastic job."

While HMH-466 is looking forward to the new challenges that will come with their new commanding officer, Lt. Col. Mark S. Jebens, the Marines are looking forward to some well-deserved time with their families who also endured much over the past year.

For one young Marine and his wife, who were married last summer, the past year was also their first year of marriage.

"I'm just really glad he's home," said Bethany Parker, wife of Cpl. Aaron J. Parker, 22, crew chief, HMH-466, from Albion, N.Y., who will celebrate his birthday next week. "I'm anxious to show him our new apartment."

But the trials of separation during a Marine's duty overseas were equally challenging for more experienced and close-knit Marine Corps families as well.

"Initially being apart is difficult, but you get through it by keeping busy," said Kathi Nielsen, wife of 18 years to Master Sgt. Robert Nielsen, 40, avionics division chief, HMH-466. "While he was away I worked in a day care center and kept busy with our three daughters' sports activities. We also stayed in touch often, which was harder years ago before E-mail." Master Sgt. Nielsen, whose older brother is also a Marine, recently re-enlisted on his daughter Kassidy's birthday for three more years with the Marines.

But despite the uncertainties and challenges that can accompany any deployment and with the support of their families, HMH-466 demonstrated a unique accomplishment and contributed toward an enduring legacy of freedom.

Participating in several exercises and missions during the year-long deployment to the Pacific Theather, including Talon Vision '02, Balikatan '03, Cobra Gold '03 and Fishhook, the Wolfpack of HMH-466 flew 1,826 hours, 1,296 sorties, completed 219 fragmentary orders, delivered 3,308,400 pounds of cargo and transported 5,753 Marines, proving they are a leader in the heavy lift community.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list