BLUEFIELDS, Nicaragua --
Marines from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 774 were the sole transportation for Continuing Promise personnel to conduct humanitarian civic assistance operations in and around Bluefields, Nicaragua, Sept. 14-24.
“The Wild Goose” boasts eight CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters for the deployment and are serving as the Air Combat Element for Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Continuing Promise 2010. They flew from the flight deck of the USS Iwo Jima over water to different locations in Nicaragua to drop off not only equipment, but also Marines, sailors, soldiers, airmen and civilians to provide medical, dental, veterinary and engineering support.
“We were the primary players for the transportation in Nicaragua, and we moved more than 150 passengers a day to shore and recovering them in the evening,” said Lt. Col. John P. Wilson, native of Honesdale, Pa., and future operations officer for the Special-Purpose MAGTF and pilot with HMM-774. “Without airlift, the mission wouldn’t have been possible because it was the only way we were able to get people ashore and it worked out very well.”
Nicaragua was the first country out of five where personnel had to solely be transported via aircraft. Landing Craft Utilities were unusable due to the shallow waters. The ACE transported passengers and cargo throughout Nicaragua and will continue to do so in Guyana and Suriname.
“We got all the passengers ashore and home every day without the ability to use LCUs,” said Wilson. “The squadron is one of the key elements to the success of this mission because all the gear needed to be transferred via air. It’s nice to be an important part of the solution that is associated with this mission.”
HMM-774 is based out of Naval Station Norfolk, and in the past years they have been training on land and not at sea. The four-month deployment has given them the ability to reach back to their naval roots and continue on their mission at sea.
“This has been a unique experience and great opportunity to not only do good deeds in all these different countries but also to get our squadron back on ship,” Wilson said. “Since 2000, we’ve been doing land-based operations and now we’re getting our Marines back onto ship and conducting shipboard operations and it has been a delight to be one of the focal points during this mission.”