Night Owls return home
Submitted by: MCAS Cherry Point
Story Identification #: 200482610416
Story by Lance Cpl. Cullen J. Tiernan
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. (Aug. 28, 2004) -- Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 2 arrived stateside Sunday after serving more than six months in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II.
The Night Owls returned from their second tour of duty in Iraq in two years. The birds of prey flew home after months of constant combat at Iraq's Al Taqaddum Airbase in Al Anbar Province. An area strategically located between the infamous city of Fallujah and the provincial capital, Ramadi.
"We deployed to Kuwait in January. By the end of February, we had assembled all of our equipment, including eight planes, and set up base March 11," said Lt. Col. Doug Hardison, the commanding officer of VMU-2. "From March 11, until the day we flew back, we were out every day flying combat missions - giving active intelligence to the Marines on the deck."
VMU-2 played a vital role in OIF II. Their unique ability to see behind enemy lines has made them an asset in Iraq. Their great commitment has brought them attention from all over the Marine Corps, including a promise from Lt. Gen. James F. Amos, commanding general of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, to be there Sunday for their return.
"While we were in Iraq (then) Maj. Gen. Amos told the troops what a great a job they were doing," said Hardison. "His confidence had a significant, positive impact on the morale of VMU-2. His presence at our return symbolized what an important role we played in their deployment."
The valuable intelligence came from the use of unmanned aerial vehicles. VMU-2's Pioneer aircraft soared over Iraq 24 hours a day. Airborne over the most dangerous cities in Iraq, these remotecontrolled eyes gave the commanders on the ground a more complete picture of the fields of fire.
"Flying over Iraq, we were able to give live chat - describing positions and the strength of insurgents," said Hardison. "We supported sniper teams in Fallujah during Operation Vigilant Resolve in April. With the continuous help of our intelligence, Marines were able to make artillery adjustments, coordinate air strikes and keep the Marines a step ahead of the insurgents."
The Marines of VMU-2 worked relentlessly to track insurgents. In contrast to Operation Iraqi Freedom I, when they were constantly on the move, hunting down retreating elements of the Iraqi army, VMU-2 dwelt at Al Taqaddum throughout the deployment.
Sgt. Jarrad Demster, a Pioneer pilot at VMU-2, noted, "The whole squadron was able to focus on our job- administrating destruction to the enemy. We located the enemy and helped drive them out of defensive positions in the cities."
"I have never seen a finer group of enlisted Marines," said Hardison of his Marines. "Their actions speak to the high level of commitment experienced throughout the squadron. It feels great to be back home now, but we are already preparing for the next deployment on the horizon."