ABOARD USS KEARSARGE, at sea — Elements of the Aviation Combat Element from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) completed support to the President of the United States' visit to Israel Jan. 11, 2008.
While the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) remained at sea off the coast of Israel ready to launch additional support aircraft as needed, five CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced), the "Raging Bulls," moved ashore to provide lift for members of the media, Secret Service members, senior members of the President's staff, and the U.S. Ambassador to Israel.
"It is a true honor to be able to support the President in his historical visit to Israel," said Marine Col. Doug Stilwell, 22nd MEU (SOC) Commanding Officer. "We were happy to assist and show the President that the 22nd MEU (SOC) and the Kearsarge Strike Group are capable, flexible, and ready to support any task."
From Jan. 9-11, the CH-46E detachment moved passengers across the country, delivering them to the Sea of Galilee, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The contingent of aircraft maintainers, communications Marines, and pilots and aircrew stayed ashore to ensure the visit was successful and the aircraft were ready to support the mission on a daily basis.
"The hard work by the Marines and Sailors ashore ensured the safe delivery of security teams, media members, and key personnel of the President's staff," said Lt. Col. James G. Flynn, commanding officer of HMM-261 (Rein.). "I couldn' be more proud of the professionalism and focus displayed by the Raging Bulls to fully and flawlessly support this mission."
Members of Marine Helicopter Squadron 1 (HMX-1), the Marine Squadron responsible for flying the President, expressed appreciation for the support offered by the Marines and Sailors of HMM-261 and the 22nd MEU (SOC).
"It makes a big difference to have the detachment from the MEU out here with us,"said Marine Lt. Col. Richard Rush, HMX-1 executive officer. "hey're fellow Marines, and we worked together a lot in the fleet. Having them with us makes things go much smoother because we speak the same lingo and we work together very well. It was a pleasure to have them out here with us."
The 22nd MEU (SOC) is currently embarked aboard the amphibious ships of the Kearsarge Strike Group. The MEU and Strike Group returned to the Mediterranean Sea Jan. 1. The units are currently on a scheduled six-month deployment.
The 22nd MEU (SOC) consists of its Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team 3/8; Aviation Combat Element, HMM 261 (Rein.); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion-22; and its Command Element.