MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
In order to better support training and deployments of the Marine Corps’ only two other unmanned aerial vehicle units, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 3 is scheduled to be activated at the Combat Center Sept. 12.
VMU-3 will be the third UAV unit in the Marine Corps established to give reconnaissance and assist in deployments and training with ground units.
"Part of our mission will be rotation with our sister unit, VMU-1, which is here already, and with VMU-2, which is based out of Cherry Point, North Carolina,” said Sgt. Maj. Rufino Mendez Jr., the squadron sergeant major. VMU-2 is the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing’s drone squadron based at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.
"When we do deploy, and even in training, our mission mainly consists of getting information for the commander of whatever unit is on the ground and other various kinds of support, which changes depending on our mission," added Mendez, a Newark, N.J., native.
The small part of VMU-3 already in place is comprised of Marines from VMU-1 and VMU-2, along with Marines fresh from military occupational specialty school.
The aircraft mainly flown by VMU-3 is the RQ-B7, also known as the Shadow 200 system, it is the newest system of its kind in use, said Lt. Col. James W. Frey, the officer-in-charge of VMU-3. Frey will become the commanding officer of VMU-3 when it becomes active.
The purpose of VMU-3 at the Combat Center will be to see off our sister unit, VMU-1, and add manpower for rotation in deployments and provide more availability for our Shadow 200 units to be used in training with ground units, said Frey.
"The most common use of these machines is to support the unit on the ground, provide and gather intelligence, and give reconnaissance from above," added Frey, a native of Ridgebury, Pa.
More than 50 Marines of the squadron are already at the Combat Center and making preparations for the rest of the squadron’s arrival. When the rest of the squadron is at the Combat Center, VMU-3 will reach a size of nearly 200 Marines, said Frey.
"Until the standing up ceremony, we will be primarily focusing on setting up our gear, equipment and personnel," said Maj. James Scott, the squadron executive officer.
"We're here to make sure that we get it all here in terms of supplies, equipment and manpower in time for the standing-up," added Scott, who hails from Youngstown, Ohio.
VMU-3 has a lot of work to do before it becomes able to operate. Scott said that it has been a joint effort between the Marine Corps and civilian contractors.
"It has taken lots of work and foresight from Headquarters Marine Corps. Coordination of the operation in terms of building the sites and working with the civilians has also been a huge undertaking," he said.
VMU-3 Marines have an optimistic future with a lot of work ahead of them.
"We're glad to be here aboard the Combat Center and very excited about the work we're going to do," said Mendez.