Osprey spreads its wings
March 2, 2007 - 12:00AM

ATLANTIC — The MV-22 Osprey had a chance to spread its wings Thursday.

It marked the first time an operational MV-22 squadron conducted an integrated training exercise with all four
elements of the Marine Air Ground Task Force.

Marine Medium Tiltroter Squadron 263, or VMM-263, Marine Aircraft Group 26, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing of New River Air Station had a chance to join forces with infantry from 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division, and other aircraft and troops with MAG-26. Ospreys, which can fly and take off
like an airplane and a helicopter, landed at Carteret County’s Outlying Landing Field in Atlantic. The Osprey crews continued training in the air, but only after dropping off troops in a simulated hostile airfield seizure with Marines from MAG-26 playing the enemy.

The Marines of 1/8 had to secure the airfield and capture the enemy, while also simulating response to finding a bomb.

Meanwhile, Ospreys circled the area and refueled before coming back to pick up the troops.

“It’s very good to get this training,” said 2nd Lt. Dan Young, commander of 1st Platoon, Alpha Company of 1/8. “It
better familiarizes us with this aircraft, which to my knowledge is going to be in our fleet when we deploy in August

The event was the final leg of VMM- 263’s transition from using the CH-46E helicopter to the Osprey — something
that is planned for each transitioning VMM squadron, according to a press release. Two CH-53E helicopters and
a section of AV-8B Harriers also participated in the training, directed by II Marine Expeditionary Force but conducted
by MAG-26.

The exercise allowed the Osprey squadron to integrate with the command, ground combat, aviation combat and combat service support elements.

The training also included a long-range raid conducted on Feb. 23 from New River Air Station to Fort Stewart in

“It’s just kind of the last level of training they’ll do before they deploy,” said Major Chris Patton, MAG-26 special projects officer. “They’ll be ready to deploy shortly. When and where I
don’t know. The integration is all part of the building phases.”

The tiltrotor aircraft has been confatal crashes, including one
in Jacksonville in December 2000 that killed four Marines.
Earlier this month, the Osprey was grounded due to a fault
computer chip, which Marine Corps officials said were being
tested and replaced one at a time, allowing most Ospreys
to get back in the air within a week or two.

But many of the troops from 1/8 who took their first ride in
an Osprey on Wednesday and Thursday said they felt confident in the aircraft. Young admitted he was nervous, but his first ride cured that, he said.

“Like a lot of Marines I was a little hesitant getting up there
because you hear the rumors,” Young said. “But those were
pretty much squashed for me.”

The ride was smoother and faster than other helicopters,
he said.

“Because you have the rotors, you assume it performs exactly
like a helicopter,” Young said.

“It seems like they’ve worked out all the kinks. I’m impressed
with it.”

The aircraft, which can transport 24 people at a time,
provided plenty of room and a swift drop-off, he said.

“It was very good training for us,” said Capt. Derek Snell of
1/8, who added that the battalion was able to get familiarized with the Osprey. “It’s an outstanding aircraft and we like it.”

Further integration training is being planned to allow wider
exposure to the MV-22 and its capabilities, according to a
press release. VMM-263 will become available for training
with II MEF in coming days to provide regular Osprey training
for Marines, the release said.

The Marine Corps plans to increase the number of Ospreys
from 46 to 360 and phase them into the fleet, according
to Marine Corps officials. Each Osprey costs about $71 million,
according to a Daily News report.

Contact staff writer Chrissy
Vick at cvick@freedomenc.com
or by calling 353-1171, ext. 239.