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AL TAQADDUM, Iraq- A flightline Marine directs a Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 268 CH-46E as it taxis down the runway, Oct. 9. The 'Red Dragons' conduct general and assault support missions as well as escorting VIPs and deliver injured or recovering personnel to the necessary treatment facilities.

Photo by Cpl. Ryan R. Jackson

'Red Dragons' fly into theatre to support operations

6 Nov 2007 | Cpl. Ryan Jackson

The Marines of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 268 arrived at Al Taqaddum to support service members operating in the Al Anbar province, Sept. 15.

 The 'Red Dragons' assumed responsibility of the general support helicopter mission in the Western Al Anbar province after a transfer of authority ceremony with HMM-161.

 The Camp Pendleton-based CH-46E squadron offers helicopter assault support to ground units and general support to air elements, including water drop off at combat outposts, troop lifts and equipment transport from camp to camp to sustain operations. In addition to general and assault support, they fly hospital runs and VIP flights.

 “We’re doing hospital runs where we’ll fly a devil dog back to his unit or push him back home,” said Sgt. Maj. Juan Diaz, squadron sergeant major. “General support is assisting the Marines on the ground out there. We also do VIP flights for dignitaries or the generals. They come over here to try and help solve the country’s problems, so we’re contributing to that.”

 The squadron has flown the skies of Al Taqaddum during previous deployments and is heavy on Marines with deployment experience and leadership as well.

 “The majority of our Marines have been here before and few have not,” said Diaz. “We’re very blessed that we have some consistency and the Marines with experience can act as mentors to others.”

 While maintaining motivation and carrying out day-to-day missions, the squadron continues training for the worst and performing their best.

 “Now that we’re here, we’re training to learn how to handle a bird that has lost power,” said Diaz. “This is beneficial to us because people have a tendency of reacting differently when stress is added. Training enables us to hopefully maintain our composure during adverse situations. Other training we are currently conducting is qualifying Marines who have volunteered to be aerial observers in addition to their primary (military occupational specialty).”

 Although the squadron just arrived, they have no shortage of work. Within the first few weeks after arriving, the squadron weathered a storm which reduced operational capabilities. Although the aircraft were not flying, the maintenance section worked just as many hours ensuring the birds were ready to fly.

 “The squadron has been working hard because of the (relief in place),” said Diaz. “They are being pushed to limits they probably didn’t realize they had. Our board indicates 1000 mishap-free hours in one month. The commanding officer and I are extremely pleased with our crew.”

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