News: VMM-266 (Rein.) returns from deployment
Story by Cpl. Martin Egnash
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION NEW RIVER, N.C. - Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 266 Reinforced returned to Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River from an eight-month deployment to the Red Sea with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), Nov. 4.
During their deployment, the Marines served as the Aviation Combat Element of the MEU.
“The MEU acts as America’s 911 force and is ready to respond to any type of crisis situation in its area of responsibility,” said VMM-266 (Rein.) Executive Officer Maj. John J. Widener. “The Aviation Combat Element’s primary mission is to provide support to the Marines on the ground, to accomplish that goal.”
The ACE performed several training exercises with foreign nations including France, Qatar and Jordan. During a training exercise in Djibouti, the AV-8B Harrier detachment conducted air-to-air combat training with French air forces.
“It’s always mutually advantageous to be able to learn the tactics, techniques and procedures of our allies,” said Widener.
As part of the 26th MEU, the Marines were ready for any type of emergency situation around the Red Sea.
“We stood alert to provide noncombatant evacuation operations (NEO), and we were prepared to provide tactical insertions if necessary,” said Widener.
When the Marines returned to MCAS New River, they flew above the air station in a 12-aircraft formation above hundreds of friends and family members.
“I was so excited to see them fly in,” said Amberlyn Bergstrom, wife of Cpl. Eric Bergstrom, ground support equipment specialist with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron (MALS) 29, deployed with VMM-266 (Rein.). “I’ve been counting down the days until I could finally see him.”
Sgt. Jonathan Otto, a ground support equipment mechanic with MALS-29, came home to his wife and six-month old son who was born while he was deployed.
“This is the first time I’ve been able to see him in person,” said Otto. “It’s the most amazing feeling I have ever had.”
After all the Marines arrived home, Widener said, “Any deployment where Marines and assets are put in harm’s way and brought back safely is a successful deployment.”