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AL ASAD, Iraq ? A Greyhawk CH-46 ?spins up? during a test Aug. 22. The Marines will test every aircraft here before flying them to the base they will operate from during this deployment.

Photo by Cpl. C. Alex Herron

Greyhawks make an Operation Iraqi Freedom three-peat

23 Aug 2005 | Cpl. C. Alex Herron

The Greyhawks of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 161 first deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. This deployment marks the third occasion ‘161 has deployed in support of OIF. The squadron deployed here Aug. 11 and is ramped up to provide casualty evacuation and logistics transport.

At the end of their 2004 deployment the squadron had flown more than 750 missions transporting more than 2,900 passengers, 116,000 pounds of cargo and 300 casualties to urgent care facilities throughout Iraq.

“This squadron started the CASEVAC mission last year during its second deployment to Iraq,” said Lt. Col. Mike Brassaw, the Greyhawks commanding officer and Cape Coral, Fla., native “We plan to continue the success we had.”

The Greyhawks are a very seasoned squadron that knows what is expected of them. They have served in Iraq before and are ready to continue their tradition of excellence in combat.

“We have Marines who are serving for a third time in Iraq,” Brassaw said. “We have a wealth of experience in this squadron that will lead the rest of the unit to success.”

The unit has been preparing for this deployment since their return from Iraq 11 months ago. They transported new CH-46s here and have worked long hours to ensure the aircraft are operational. They are set for the move to a forward operating base from which they will conduct missions.

“We brought aircraft in last year and then left them behind for future units to use,” Brassaw said. “Now those CH-46s have been in Iraq for more than 18 months and been used under very strenuous conditions by three different squadrons. We are bringing in aircraft that have been completely re-modified and ready for the mission.”

Over the past two weeks the Greyhawks have put their aircraft back together after traveling across the world in Air Force cargo planes. They have spent their days checking systems and going on test flights, ensuring everything is ready for combat.

“Our Marines are anxious to begin the mission,” said Sgt. Maj. William Fitzgerald, a Big Rapids, Mich., native.

“We’re ready to get to work,” said Sgt. Jason Hernandez, a mechanic and aerial observer and Orange Park, Fla., native. “We want to get to our base and get into a routine and do our part again.”

Along with a wealth of experience in the squadron, the Greyhawks also have a number of young Marines who are deploying for the first time. The Marines who are serving for their second and third time in country have been preparing the younger Marines.

“I’m a little nervous,” said Lance Cpl. Michael Kubbeler, a crew chief from Toledo, Ohio. “I guess I’m just experiencing the normal emotions for someone who is deploying to a combat zone for the first time, but mainly I’m excited to be here. This is a great opportunity and I’m ready for it.”

“We stress training and learning everything you can as soon as someone new walks in the door,” said Cpl. Nicholas Moreno, a crew chief and Sulphur, La., native. “These younger guys are prepared a lot better than we were last year. They have been able to learn from our lessons learned from our previous deployments.”

The Marines expect nothing less than the excellence they started two years ago. Keeping in mind the importance of their job helps the Marines stay focused while preparing for each mission.

“We are expecting the same good things that have been the trademark of this unit for the past two combat deployments,” said Hernandez, who is serving for his third time in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. “We have a good core of experience and leadership that will make this deployment better than the rest.”

The Greyhawks understand that providing casualty evacuation is vital to the success of the forward deployed Marine force. The squadron has an experienced crew ready to do all they can to ensure the safety and health of their passengers throughout Iraq. Their mission is to maintain the wellbeing of each member of the unit, and do their part so the people of Iraq live in a free society.

*For more information about this story please e-mail Cpl. Alex Herron at*

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