Wednesday, April 09, 2008

First Osprey squadron in Iraq to return home

By Trista Talton - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Apr 9, 2008 15:52:24 EDT

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. – The towering billboard says it all.

“Welcome Home VMM-263,” it reads. “Congratulations on a job well done.”

Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263, the first MV-22 Osprey squadron sent into the fight, is coming back home to Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C. The squadron, pictured in a massive photo stretched across the billboard less than a mile from the air station’s main gate, is wrapping up a seven-month deployment at Al Asad air base in Iraq.

Cpl. Brandon Gale, a New River public affairs officer, confirmed Wednesday that the squadron is returning, though he did not have an exact homecoming date.

The 12 aircraft the squadron operated will remain in Iraq, said Maj. Eric Dent, a Headquarters Marine Corps public affairs officer. Ten Ospreys sailed on an amphibious assault ship to get to Iraq last fall, with two additional tiltrotors joining the squadron last month.

Leaving assault support aircraft in the field and rotating aircrews and their support is fairly routine, he said.

The squadron will be replaced by VMM-162. About 175 members of that squadron deployed to Iraq late last month, Gale said.

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