ABOARD USS ESSEX, at sea --
AV-8B Harriers assigned to the “Greyhawks” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 161 (Reinforced) began flying sorties from the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) Aug. 16 in support of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR).
The Harriers were prepared to execute strike missions in Iraq to dismantle and ultimately defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as part of the multinational coalition participating in OIR in the U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility
VMM-161(Rein.) is the aviation combat element of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), which is currently embarked with the Essex Amphibious Ready Group and deployed to maintain regional security in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
“We are proud and excited to be able to support missions against ISIL,” said Lt. Col. Andreas Lavato, commanding officer, VMM-161 (Rein.). “It’s an honor to be leading the best trained and equipped Marines and Sailors in the Marine Corps as we take the fight to the enemy. It is a clear testament to their skill and professionalism that we can support OIR, while simultaneously training and operating throughout the region, both ashore and embarked aboard ship.”
In addition to supporting sorties in support of OIR, the MEU’s Marines and Sailors are deployed to several other locations throughout the 5th Fleet AOR executing sustainment training and engaging regional partners.
“The MEU’s ability to source combat sorties from the Essex, while simultaneously supporting training and operations in four other countries on opposite sides of the theater, is a clear demonstration of the 15th MEU’s and Essex ARG’s ability to provide flexible, responsive options to the combatant commander and the coalition fighting ISIL,” said Col. Vance L. Cryer, commanding officer, 15th MEU. “This is a strong example of the value of forward deployed naval expeditionary forces. These aircraft would not be in a position to make a difference in al-Anbar without the combined efforts of the Navy-Marine Corps team.”