MARINE CORPS AIR STATION NEW RIVER, N.C. --
On Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists linked to al-Qaeda bombed the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington D.C. This attack on the United States sparked the beginning of the war on terror in Afghanistan and later Iraq.
The first Marine Aircraft Group 26 unit to deploy during the War on Terror was Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 263, known as “The Thunder Chickens.”
During the nine-month deployment as part of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit in 2002-2003, the ‘Thunder Chickens’ flew an unprecedented 9,568 hours and participated in Operation Enduring Freedom in the Horn of Africa, and Operation Iraqi Freedom in and around Iraq. For the first time in over a decade all of the squadrons that comprise MAG-26 were aboard Marine Corps Air Station New River at the same time.
The MV-22B Osprey was introduced to the Marine Corps in 2000 and began training crew for the aircraft right away.
In early 2007, then-Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James Conway announced that the first squadron of Ospreys would be deploying later that year. The first tiltrotor squadron to deploy was Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263.
At the start of the first deployment on Sept. 17, 2007, 10 Ospreys were sent with more than 150 Marines to Iraq aboard the USS Wasp.
“The decision to use a ship rather than the Osprey's self-deployment capability was made because of concerns over icing during the North Atlantic portion of the trip, the lack of available KC-130s for mid-air refueling, and the availability of the USS Wasp,” said Conway.
During deployments the MV-22B Osprey’s job responsibilities range from troop and supply transport to emergency casualty evacuations.
MAG-26 is comprised of seven Osprey squadrons, six are deployable and one is a training unit and for the first time in years, they are all present.
In celebration of this rare event, all of the squadrons got together and planned an eight aircraft flight. Each squadron provided their ‘flag ship’, the Osprey with their units logo painted on the tail and the eighth Osprey was used to take aerial photos of the formation in action.
“It is a rare opportunity for all of the squadrons that comprise MAG-26 to fly together in a formation at the same time,” said Lt. Col. Bret A. Hart, MAG-26 executive officer. “It was exciting and fun to see all of the Ospreys with their ‘flag ships’ flying in a formation together. It was a really proud moment to see them all fly over that air station and surrounding Jacksonville, N.C., area.”
The time with all of the squadrons being present at the same time was short lived through when VMM-264 deployed for Afghanistan Jan. 12.