VMU-1 breaks flight hour record

24 Jun 2003 | Army Spc. Bronwyn M. Meyer and Cpl. John R. Rocha

Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 surpassed the old standard of annual flight hours by a country mile while supporting Operation Southern Watch and Operation Iraqi Freedom. 

Pioneer squadrons are usually allotted only 200 hours of flight time per fiscal year. To fly 1000 hours in nine months is a remarkable feat considering the unit had to move many times through Kuwait and Iraq in support of Operation Southern Watch and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Pioneer is a medium range tactical unmanned aerial vehicle equipped with a sophisticated camera to provide intelligence and an eagle-eye view of the battlefield.

The unit has been supporting operations in Kuwait and Iraq since the end of February. During this time the squadron flew about 900 hours.

Throughout Operation Southern Watch and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the unit worked tirelessly to keep the Pioneers up in the sky, which provided valuable information to the troops on the ground. 

?Everybody has been working around the clock,? said Cpl. Greg Dube, VMU-1 avionics technician of Somersworth, N.H.

Through the squadrons many moves, the Marines of VMU-1 flew from rugged sites, including roadways, dirt strips, or abandoned taxiways, wherever they could find room to operate the Pioneers. 

?When everything first started we were landing on dirt runways. We had to learn to fly in difficult conditions,? said Cpl. Kassie Council, VMU-1 UAV operator, and San Antonio, Texas native. 

VMU-1 moved eight times since they arrived in Kuwait in mid-February. 

?The squadron has never been this mobile before, constantly setting up equipment and preparing to fly within two to four hours of reaching their destination,? according to Cpl. Greg Dube, VMU-1 Avionics Technician and Somersworth, N.H. native.   ?We?ve never moved this fast before.?

?There is a lot of team work out here,? said Cpl. Francisco Manzo, VMU-1 UAV mechanic from Tucson, Ariz.

?The fact that they were real world missions [made] everyone excited,? said Cpl. John R. Rocha, a Corpus Christi, Texas, native and VMU-1 UAV operator.

?[We proved] to everyone that we could do our mission successfully and in a timely manner,? he said.