CAMP LEATHERNECK, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan — Three MV-22 "Ospreys" from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261, Marine Aircraft Group 40, Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan, transported a raid force into an area of Marjah in support of Operation Moshtarak, Feb. 19.
This was the first time the Osprey was used for an insert since the operation began six days ago.
"The mission was successful," said Maj. Stephen Conley, the aircraft commander for one of the Ospreys that participated in the mission. "It was a great use of our assets. We transported a good amount of Marines in a relatively short period of time."
The Osprey has provided increased flexibility to commanders due to its ability to fly further and faster than a traditional helicopter. Additionally, the Osprey can rotate its rotors to vertically take-off and land like a helicopter.
"We shrink the battle space," said Conley. "We can go deep into the area of operation because of our speed."
When Regimental Combat Team 7, MEB-A, needed to provide relief to an infantry battalion that was engaged in a fierce firefight, a request was sent to MAG-40 to begin planning the insert of Marines from 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, MEB-Afghanistan, into Marjah.
This was an immediate request requiring many various aviation assets, according to Lt. Col. Thomas Gore, the future operations officer for MAG-40.
As of Feb. 13, MEB-Afghanistan has been using ground forces in conjunction with available aviation assets to clear enemy forces from the city of Marjah and maintain control of those areas.
In addition to the Osprey, the insert was supported by other MAG-40 assets, to include KC-130 "Hercules" from Marine Aerial Refuler Transport Squadron 352, providing battlefield illumination and Marine Attack Squadron 231 used AV-8B "Harriers" for overwatch and close air support once the Marines were on the ground. The Ospreys were escorted by AH-1W "Super Cobra" helicopters from Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367.
This was not the first time the Osprey participated in an insert of ground forces. During Operation Cobra's Anger in December 2009, the Osprey was one of the primary aircraft used to insert troops. Since then, the Osprey has provided assault support throughout the area of operations.
As many aviation Marines see it, their mission is simply to support the Marines on the ground in any facet they are tasked with.
"Every day, I have the honor of keeping Marines on the ground safe by providing support from overhead," said Staff Sgt. Nicholas McCulloch, a weapons and tactics instructor for VMM-261. "We work long hours and work real hard toward mission accomplishment and get as many Marines home as we can."
By the end of the mission, Feb. 19, the three Ospreys had inserted two waves of Marines into Marjah. As RCT-7 continues to confront enemy forces, the speed of this aircraft will give commanders more flexibility to resupply the Marines on the ground and reinforce units, providing critical support to the fight.