MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 became the first UAV squadron to receive the Commandant’s Aviation Trophy Oct. 18, for their commendable performance from April 2007 until April 2008 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James F. Amos, awarded the trophy to Maj. Lance T. Arp, the executive officer of VMU-1, at the Marine Corps Aviation Association 2008 meeting.
Arp, who comes from San Angelo, Texas, said receiving the award is another first for the Marines and sailors of VMU-1.
“VMU-1 was the first Marine unit to get the Shadow 200 aircraft,” Arp said. “We were also the first to train on it and learn it. We also were the first to deploy with the aircraft and use it in Iraq.”
Their rapid switch from the Pioneer to the Shadow 200 system was only part of the reason VMU-1 was selected to receive this year’s award, according to Arp. VMU-1 had 2,035 combat flights and 15,350 flight hours while deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, along with many other achievements by the squadron.
“Along with flight hours without incident and our switch to the Shadow 200 first, we had innovations and progress with payloads on the UAV,” Arp said.
Marines such as Staff Sgt. Daryl W. Reynolds, a crew supervisor with VMU-1, contributed to the events that led to VMU-1 receiving their latest award.
The squadron utilized the Shadow 200 to deploy their communications relay capability, enabling forces on the ground to communicate a longer distance by boosting the signal and helping units communicate farther than their equipment could normally reach.
“We were able to boost the signal of regular communications equipment by using a payload attachment in the Shadow for communications relay,” said Reynolds. “The aircraft would fly at a certain point to help boost another unit’s communications equipment so others out of their reach could hear and support them if it was needed.”
The squadron accomplishing its mission is what was most important to VMU-1, Reynolds said.
“My section in particular, we made sure the aircraft was ready for takeoff and had all it needed to sustain its mission,” said Reynolds. “All the junior Marines put a lot of hard work into the operations we did. It shows and reflects now that we’ve gotten this reward. All the hard work all the Marines of VMU-1 did, along with the extra care they performed to accomplish the mission, it was really good they got what they had coming.”
Reynolds added VMU-1 made it possible because nobody ever slacked or did not want to take part in a mission, they took great personal pride in their aircraft.
Cpl. James L. Vincent, a UAV operator and a native of Griffin, Ga., was with the squadron on their last deployment and also attributed the award to their work ethic and effort.
“It’s good to know we’re all recognized for what we did,” Vincent said. “Our missions were accomplished through thorough work. They also had a great impact because we were all doing our best to look out for the guys on the ground, that’s what impacted and made the biggest difference.”
Arp thanked the efforts and praised the accomplishments of all the Marines and sailors present on their last deployment.
“It is an absolute honor to be recognized with the trophy,” Arp commented. “That’s the big kahoona of awards for us. The award is such a big thing in our minds. At the end of the day it’s the junior Marines who do the things that earn the award. My hat goes off to them.”
The MCAA gives the award to recognize the best overall performance and accomplishment of all assigned tasks by a Marine squadron. VMU-1 became the first UAV unit to do so when they took the title away from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363, stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii.