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Published:May 8th, 2006 06:23 EST
VMA-214 conducts ops in Iraq

VMA-214 conducts ops in Iraq

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ABOARD THE USS PELELIU (May 8, 2006) -- Geared with live ordnance, Marines and aircraft from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 166 (Reinforced), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), conducted operations in Iraq May 8.

AV-8B Harrier aircraft from Fighter Attack Squadron 214, attached to HMM-166 (Rein), from Yuma, Ariz., have been launching from the USS Peleliu and into hostile territory since mid-April in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, while the entire 11th MEU (SOC) was conducting training exercises in Udairi Range, Kuwait.

It was more than a six-hour mission, " said Capt. Casey D. Elam, AV-8B pilot, VMA-214, of the most recent mission. The three attack aircraft had to aerial refuel four times and operate in challenging weather conditions. "

Armed with ample amount of ordnance, the Harriers flew into combat with the Joint Direct Attack Munition. This marked the first time in Marine Corps history that a ship-based Harrier carried the guidance tail kit into combat.

The squadron brought a new capability to the fight, the JDAM. This munition allows the pilots the ability to attack targets in any weather condition, " said Elam.

HMM-166 was the first squadron to launch Harriers with JDAMs from an amphibious ship in November. Now they`re being used to conduct actual combat operations.

The JDAM is accurate and meant for adverse-weather conditions, " said Cpl. James McCafferty, ordnance technician. It can be launched from low or high altitudes, and it enables weapon systems to be directed against single or multiple targets. "

Along with the JDAM, the Harriers were armed with laser-guided bombs, AGM-65 Mavericks and 25mm rounds.

This is what we train for and what makes us an asset in theater, the ability to support combat operations from an expeditionary warship, " said Capt. Mathew M. McLaughlin, Harrier pilot. We will continue to train even after the combat missions are complete in case we are needed again. "

The flight of the three aircraft conducted its mission and returned to the ship safely due in no small part to the hard work and efforts of the Marines maintaining the aircraft, " said Elam. Our Marines have done an outstanding job working long hours in austere conditions. They make what we do possible. "

The hard work that goes into maintaining and equipping the Harriers with what they need to be successful in garrison and theatre is the crew, according to the pilots. Without them it would impossible to conduct training exercises or actual operations. They worked hard just to do their part.

The Marines were excited to participate in OIF, " said McCafferty. Here we got a chance to join the fight. "