News: 4th Marine Aircraft Wing continues MARFORRES Unit Deployment Program tradition
Story by Cpl. Marcin Platek
JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX LAKEHURST, N.J. -- In the latest continuation of Marine Forces Reserve’s participation in the Unit Deployment Program, it is the aviation component’s turn to deploy. Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 772, part of the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, and Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 112 left the United States for a six-month rotation in Okinawa, Japan, starting in June and ending in January.
For HMH-772, “The Hustlers,” going back to Okinawa is nothing new. The squadron deployed there during the Gulf War, where it transitioned to CH-53D helicopters and provided support for Operations Fiery Vigil and Sea Angel. However, this trip will signify something else.
“The keynote is that we are the first rotary wing squadron get back into the UDP cycle,” said Maj. Michael T. Wallace, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing future operations officer.
"The HMH-772 Detachment will have an active-duty detachment from Marine Light Helicopter Squadron 167 assigned to them" said Wallace. "This is pretty significant as an active-duty squadron's detachment will be under a Reserve squadron's command."
The reinforced squadron will strengthen III Marine Expeditionary Force’s and Marine Forces Pacific’s area of operation while operating under the 1st MAW. They will be capable of augmenting routine exercises in Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand.
Two years ago marked the resumption of MARFORRES’ participation in the UDP. Before that, MARFORRES had not taken part in the UDP since 2003, when the Marine Corps increased unit rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan. Battery O, 5th Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, went to Okinawa, Japan, in 2011, while Battery H, 3rd Bn., 14th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, replaced them in 2012.
In addition to providing necessary training to keep Reserve Marines operationally prepared, the UDP will help Marine Corps’ in its refocus to the Pacific region.
The UDP began in 1977 under the 26th Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Louis H. Wilson Jr., as an initiative to improve unit continuity by extending training rotations. As part of the program, infantry battalions stationed in the United States deployed to Okinawa for six months. Tank, amphibious assault vehicle and light armored reconnaissance companies, artillery batteries, and air squadrons were fit into the rotation in the mid-1980s.
Two infantry battalions are currently deployed to Okinawa as part of the UDP. Third Bn., 6th Marines, and 1st Bn., 5th Marines, are part of the Marine Corps’ effort to accelerate the UDP by deploying two infantry battalions per rotation.