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NEWS | Sept. 30, 2022

VMM-268 Showcase MV-22 Versatility, Strengthen Relationships on 6,100 Mile Trans-Pacific Flight

By Capt. Jordan Fox 1st Marine Aircraft Wing

MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII – U.S. Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 268 concluded their deployment with Marine Rotational Force – Darwin by executing a 6,100 mile transpacific flight from Australia to Hawaii, September 13-18, 2022. The occasion marks the second time this year that MV-22 Ospreys from Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 24 successfully completed long-range maritime self-deployments. Earlier this year, VMM-363 executed a similar mission, flying approximately 5,000 miles from Hawaii to the Philippines for Exercise Balikatan 22.

The monumental journey began in Darwin on September 13 as two VMM-268 MV-22s and one KC-130J from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 152 departed for Royal Australian Air Force Base Amberley. Over the next several days, the Marines would land in Fiji, American Samoa, and the Republic of Kiribati before completing the final leg to Marine Corps Base Hawaii Kaneohe Bay.

“The MV-22s are capable and versatile aircraft for operations in the Pacific,” said Capt. John Wilkinson, a pilot assigned to VMM-268. “But it’s important to remember that flights of this magnitude wouldn’t be possible without the dedication and support of our Marines and our allies and partners.”

While transiting the islands of the South Pacific via a path resembling the Corps’ island-hopping campaign of World War II, they prioritized their interactions with local leaders and communities along the way. In Fiji, the Marines welcomed airfield support staff onboard for a tour and later came together to share a meal and exchange tokens of appreciation for support.

In American Samoa, the Marines had several memorable interactions. Sergeant Tyrone Travers, a native of the island, embraced his sister for the first time in six years. Colonel Manlee Herrington, MAG-24 commanding officer, met with two retired Marines; Sgt. Maj. Tusipasi Suiaunoa, whose last assignment was as the Headquarters and Support Battalion Sergeant Major at U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific; and Cpl. Ketsemame Meaole, a veteran of the war in Vietnam.

While in the Republic of Kiribati, the Marines delivered humanitarian aid supplies to the community, enhancing their resilience in enduring drought and the fight against COVID-19. Masks, medicine, and water were supplied to a local hospital. Sports equipment and toys were donated to families and children. The Marines are proud and thankful for the opportunity to help those in need, a sentiment carried home on the final leg to Kaneohe Bay, September 18.

The transpacific flight demonstrates MAG-24’s ability to provide movement and maneuver capabilities for ground forces throughout the vastness of the Indo-Pacific area of responsibility. “MV-22s, coupled with KC-130s, provide unparalleled mobility at the tactical level,” said Col. Herrington. “With these aircraft, MAG-24 can put Marines and equipment anywhere in the Pacific.” “These capabilities,” Herrington continued, “enable us to experiment and implement operational concepts critical to developing the Fleet Marine Force of the future.”

The flights, along with the experiences and ability to support our many allies and partners in the region, is something MAG-24 and 1st Marine Aircraft Wing plan on making more routine. With an eye toward Force Design 2030, the group is transitioning to become more mobile, lethal, and ready. MAG-24’s transition leverages its unique position to develop relationships and logistics networks for the Corps’ Stand-In Force operating concept.

Each stop on the transpacific flight – Australia, Fiji, American Samoa, and the Republic of Kiribati – are historically significant in the South Pacific and steeped in Marine Corps lore. The islands served as expeditionary staging bases for the U.S. and its allies in World War II, places that led ultimately, to the lasting peace, prosperity, and security present in the region for nearly 80 years.

Continued presence of Marine aviation and strengthened relationships with our allies and partners in the region is critical to maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific. 1st Marine Aircraft Wing and MAG-24 support a wide array of operations throughout the Indo-Pacific alongside our allies and partners, continuing to be a strength to national and regional security.

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