Story and photo by Cpl. Isaac Lamberth

NIMROZ PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Crews from two MV-22B Ospreys with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365 await a call to extract Marines who have been conducting a counter-narcotics operation in western Nimroz province to return them to Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, May 14.

Once the call arrives, the pilots and crew chiefs don their gear, prep their aircraft for takeoff and ready their weapons. Rolling down the runway at Camp Bastion, the two aircraft quickly gain speed and lift off, heading directly to the Khash Rod district in northern Nimroz province.

Waiting for them are Marines from 1st Reconnaissance Battalion and members of the National Interdiction Unit, a specialized Afghan counternarcotics team. The ground units are depending on the Osprey crews to arrive in a timely manner before a dangerous situation arises.

Capt. Jason Laird, a pilot and flight leader for the mission, explained that the squadron was assisting ground units in disrupting the supply routes of insurgents who have been smuggling weapons and narcotics.

“It’s important to do these types of missions because it helps reduce the amount of funding that can be used against our guys on the ground,” said Laird, of Corpus Christi, Texas.

In the past, insurgents have sold narcotics to buy weapons and use them against coalition forces. The operation reinforces the idea to local residents that the country is clamping down on illegal drugs and weapons smuggling.

Several minutes into the flight, the Ospreys begin their descent. Dropping to just above treetop level, the aircraft move in a blur of motion with speed and purpose, rapidly closing the gap between themselves and the Marines on the ground.

“When we go, we need to get in and out,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Allen, a crew chief with the squadron. “These guys depend on us to get there quickly.”

Landing in a cloud of dust and vegetation, the Marines of 1st Recon Bn. and the National Interdiction Unit hurriedly make their way to the Ospreys. Jumping onto the ramps of the aircraft, they quickly ready themselves for the ride back. Within seconds, two platoon-sized elements have boarded.

Once everyone and everything is properly secured, the pilots turn the engines up to full power and lift off.

Allen, a native of Eureka, Kan., said the operation was a success. The Marines stopped several individuals for questioning and found a cache of weapons.

Making several hard turns on the way back to Camp Leatherneck, the aircrews unload their passengers and arrive back at the flight line, ready to complete the next task at hand.