Photo Information

Two CH-46E "Sea Knights" wtih Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 (Reinforced) land on the USS Peleliu docked at Naval Base San Diego May 17, 2010. HMM-165 (Rein) loaded helicopters and gear for the upcoming deployment with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Photo by Sgt. Deanne Hurla

'White Knights prepare for Western Pacific deployment

21 May 2010 | Sgt. Deanne Hurla

Marines and sailors gathered with their families on the piers here Wednesday to bid farewell to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 (Reinforced), as they set sail on a Western Pacific tour with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable).

Over the past few months, the Marines have been preparing for this deployment by training to land on moving ships and working with other elements of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force.

After working on these skills, the Marines completed training to find the quickest way to expedite a fast rope drop of Maritime Raid Force Marines.

“Using this method allows us to figure the time it takes for the first plane to drop its Marines and the second, to be pulling in as the first takes off,” explained Lt. Col. Todd Oneto, the commanding officer of HMM-165 (Rein).

Another aspect of training taught the Marines how to perform a visit, board, search and seizure of another ship.

Not only did the Marines study raid tactics, but they also trained to support humanitarian assistance missions. This training included noncombatant evacuation operations.

“One nice part of being on a MEU is knowing the Marines are on call to do anything at anytime,” said Oneto. The seven-month deployment will kick off with the Amphibious Ready Group splitting up and sailing to different ports.

The USS Peleliu and USS Pearl Harbor will sail for East Timour, and the USS Dubuque will sail for Indonesia to the Jungle Warfare Training Center in Bali.

“I’m just hoping to get to do something real, whether its humanitarian assistance, which is a very, very rewarding mission, or even a [visit, board, search and seizure],” said Oneto, who is looking forward to shipping out like many of his Marines.

“I haven’t been on a MEU before so I’m really looking forward to seeing several different countries in such a short time,” said Sgt. Christopher Ley, a CH-53E crew chief with HMM-165 (Rein).

One of the ports the Marines may possibly visit is Darwin, Australia, where the three ships will potentially re-group. From there, the ships will head for the 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility where they plan to split again.

The “White Knights” plan to be home for Christmas but will serve where they are needed until that time.

“This is the most unbelievable group of professionals I’ve had the pleasure to associate with,” said Oneto. “I think it will be a very rewarding tour no matter what we do.”