Commanding Officer of HMM-265. The Squadron is operating out of Atsugi, Japan

27 March 2011
Atsugi, Japan

Dear Dragon Veterans,

Two weeks ago, HMM-265 commenced flight operations in support of Operation Tomodachi (Relief Ops in Japan).  The squadron launched and headed north in just four hours!  Our Families on Okinawa have proven their resilience; most have seen their Marine for only a few days since the end of January.  You should be extremely proud of your old squadron; I wish everyone could see the combined effort displayed every day and night here on Atsugi.

Our relief flights depart every morning, often with uncertain tasks and headed to uncertain locations.  The crews endure freezing conditions during the two-hour flight to the devastated areas. Our Marines are then dynamically tasked with urgent missions to deliver much needed food and water.  They often have to land in small, unknown LZs with either heavy loads or low fuel.  After a day of work, the crews make the two-hour flight home under equally cold conditions.

Our maintenance crews greet the returning aircraft as the sun is setting.  The night is spent repairing all the maintenance discrepancies on the aircraft and preparing the fleet for the next day's events.  These dedicated Marines work through the night often in howling winds and sometimes freezing rain to make aircraft ready for the next day.  All normal staff functions must also be completed despite working out of an unheated vacant hangar.  Every Marine and sailor is needed here and each has an important role to fill.  Whether a Marine is installing windows or tracking personnel accountability, everyone is contributing to the relief effort.

You may have heard of the fears of radiation.  Rest assured the safety of the Marines and sailors is my number one priority.  Our detection and scanning efforts remain vigilant and every precaution is being taken.  Our Marines wear suits and masks when dealing with any contaminated items.  We have not come close to any unsafe levels, but we have professionals from the Navy on hand to clean away any levels of radiation above normal.  Reports of food and water contamination are in areas near the two power plants and nowhere near where we are working, flying, or living.  Our base even has its own water source not connected to the Tokyo system.  Every precaution is being taken to ensure the safety of our Marines and sailors.

The Dragons have made a measurable impact on the relief efforts.  We have transported over 200 passengers and over 50 tons of cargo, 35 tons of which has been relief supplies delivered directly into the hands of those in need.  Our morale is high.  Although we all miss being home, we know our mission is noble and those in need deserve all our efforts to help.  This is why we became US Marines.

We are proud to continue and uphold the legacy and reputation which you forged.

Damien Marsh
LtCol US Marines
HMM-265 Commanding Officer


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