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HMM-166 Marines reflect on combat deployment accomplishments

Marine Corps News

Story Identification #: 200537191511
Story by Lance Cpl. Skye Jones

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, calif. (Mar. 4, 2005) -- Activated September 13, 1985 in Tustin, Calif., the youngest CH-46 helicopter squadron in the Marine Corps experienced their first combat tour in Iraq recently.

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 166 (Reinforced) departed aboard the USS Belleau Wood May 27, 2004 and arrived in Al Asad, Iraq July 11. The squadron returned home February 2005.
With roughly 3,711 sorties flown in seven months, the reinforced squadron also flew approximately 5,659 flight hours, carried 2,309,738 pounds of cargo and transported 9,292 passengers while deployed to the Middle East.

Reinforced Dec. 15, the "Sea Elk's" 12 CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters and roughly 215 Marines teamed up with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadrons 16 and 39, Marine Air Control Group 38, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465, Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169, 3rd Low-Altitude Air Defense Battalion and Marine Attack Squadron 211 to provide combat assault support to I Marine Expeditionary Force.

"Our Marines did what Marines do over there," said Lt. Col. Michael G. McCoy, operations officer, HMM-166, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 16, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. "They always make it happen, whether it's fighting for the city of Najaf, or saving lives during the fight with the Moqtada militiamen-they did a good job."

The "Sea Elk" Marines main mission was to provide operational air support for forward operating bases Al Asad and Duke.

"We performed casualty evacuations, troop inserts and movements, mail runs and we delivered (meals ready to eat) and water to the troops," said Sgt. William B. Ellington, CH-46 mechanic, HMM-166. "We all pulled together to get these numerous jobs done because mission accomplishment always comes first."

McCoy was very proud of Ellington and the rest of the squadron's achievements.

"It's Marines like sergeant Ellington who are out there turning wrenches who make the mission happen," he said pointing to Ellington. "Despite working 16 hour days in 120 degree weather, they all pulled together."

Camaraderie amongst the Marines in HMM-166 was definitely evident, said Sgt. Lawrence Williams, CH-46 mechanic, HMM-166.

"All of the squadrons out there were all working toward one goal," he said. "We were surprisingly very good at working as one to get everything accomplished so we could get back home quickly."

The last of HMM-166's helicopters arrived back at Miramar Feb. 23.

In order to return in an expedient manner, HMM-166 flew with the Air Force in their C-5 Galaxy cargo jets to get 11 of their 12 helicopters home. The twelfth and final helicopter is currently at standard depot level maintenance in Cherry Point, N.C., for structural repairs.

"This was the first time that this squadron has ever (transported all of its aircraft via C-5)," said Ellington. "It's a much faster method of transportation and that helps us (save time) because we still have a lot of work ahead of us."

The squadron is scheduled to deploy once more in January.

"I always look forward to deploying," said Ellington.

"Especially with this squadron," he added.

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