Sunday, October 11, 2009

VMM-261 likely to deploy to Afghanistan next month along with MV-22



By Amy McCullough and Dan Lamothe

Marine officials say that an MV-22 Osprey squadron will deploy to Afghanistan for the first time in November.

Brig. Gen. Jon Davis, the assistant deputy commandant for aviation, can’t wait for the Osprey to get to theater, he said in early October during the Modern Day Marine Exposition at Quantico, Va. He expects the aircraft to change the way Marines do business in Afghanistan — just as it did in Iraq, he said.

It is likely that Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261, based at Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., will be tapped for the mission since it is next in line to deploy, although no deployment order has been issued. New River’s VMM-263 deployed aboard the amphibious assault ship Bataan this spring along with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejeune, N.C., and is expected to return home in December, said Maj. Eric Dent, a Marine spokesman.

A recent report by congressional investigators with the Government Accountability Office said Ospreys may not be suited for Afghanistan’s mountainous terrain, but Marine officials dispute the assessment.

“We believe the Osprey will prove its worth in Afghanistan, and anything that takes Marines off the roads deserves extra consideration,” Dent said.

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