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Unmanned aircraft squadron finishes third deployment with astonishing flight hours

AL TAQADDUM, Iraq(Feb. 28, 2006) -- Soaring on the seventh month of deployment, the Marines of Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, prepare to return home to Twentynine Palms, Calif., after going above and beyond the normal call of duty throughout their rotation.


Submitted by: 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
Story by: Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Brandon L. Roach
Story Identification #: 200633112120

Nearing completion of their third deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, VMU-1 will have recorded more than 3,000 hours of flight time and over 725 sorties in support of Multi-National Forces-Western Iraq during OIF.

"We serve a unique purpose here by providing our ground units with aerial coverage," said Cpl. Nicholas Romano, external unmanned aerial vehicle pilot, VMU-1.

Since there are only two VMU squadrons in the Marine Corps, each one completes a seven-month tour in Iraq. When they get back to the United States, they have five months of work before it's time for the next rotation.

In addition to setting their sister squadron up for success, many of these Marines will likely be deployed back to this same location in less than seven months.

There are many missions that VMU-1 fulfills. They range from aerial reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition, battle damage assessment, fire adjustment for artillery and close air support.

The squadron is comprised of less than 200 Marines who are attached to several sections of the squadron. It is made up of everything from administration to Marine Corps pilots. Each section has its own mission to help ensure each flight operation is a success.

The sections of the squadron include administration, intelligence, operations, logistics, communications, aviation maintenance, safety and medical.

"Each section would not be complete without the contributions of the other sections," said Cpl. Ryan D. Rodgers, UAV operator, VMU-1.

While completing the mission is always the priority, the Marines of VMU-1 find time to complete physical training and get odd jobs done around the shop and their living quarters.

"These Marines do an outstanding job," said Sgt. Daryl W. Reynolds, UAV avionics technician, VMU-1. "They are great people to work with and they give 100 percent, 24 hours a day, every day of the week."

The Marines work around the clock to make normal operations happen, as well as making many upgrades to their workspace and living quarters. They constructed offices inside of hangars and hand built the supply, motor transportation and armory buildings.

Each Marine in the squadron has a specific job, but when it comes to improving conditions, all the Marines lend a hand in the daily tasks.

Although there are stresses of being in a combat zone, the Marines of VMU-1 have risen against the odds of weather, the unpredictability of war and personal hardships to go well beyond the basic mission they came to support.