Photo Information

Marines with Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 22 load onto a bus to begin their trek to the unit’s first deployment, July 9. The Marine Corps Air Station New River Marines deployed to support Special Marine Air Ground Task Force-South aboard USS America on its maiden voyage. The USS America is the first amphibious assault ship of its class.

Photo by Cpl. Jackeline M. Perez Rivera

VMX-22 deploys in support of Special MAGTF-South

24 Jul 2014 | Cpl. Jackeline M. Perez Rivera Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune

More than 70 Marines and sailors from Marine Corps Air Station New River set off to join the Navy’s newest ship for its maiden voyage throughout South America, July 9.

Service members from Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 22, deployed for the first time in support of Special Marine Air-Ground Task Force-South aboard the USS America, the first amphibious assault ship of its class.

The USS America is scheduled to visit Colombia, Brazil, Chile and other countries in the region as it makes its way to San Diego, its home port. It is a routine transit where the Special MAGTF-South will be able to engage partner nations. Exchange events with partner nations’ personnel are planned in activities such as Marine Corps Martial Arts, combat lifesaver and combat marksmanship.

Marines and sailors will be able explore some of the countries during port calls and have opportunities to volunteer at local schools, orphanages and other facilities.

It is a chance for service members with VMX-22 to interact with different cultures and see new places, said Lance Cpl. Felicia Cunningham, an avionics technician with VMX-22.

"I’m excited," said Cunningham. "I think it will be a lot of fun."

Cunningham looks forward to not only gaining new cultural experiences, but gaining new experiences professionally. She expects performing her job aboard the ship will be very different than on the air station. She believes the variation in environment will provide challenges and opportunities to increase her skills.

It will be some of the Marines’ first time deploying with the Navy, said Staff Sgt. Michael Perrault, an aviation supply specialist with VMX-22.

"(Marines are) used to deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan," said Perrault. "For most of us, this is our first taste of a true Marine Corps deployment. We are going back to our amphibious roots."

Perrault looks forward to interacting with the sailors of the USS America, as well as people from the countries they will visit.

"It really brings together the bilateral relationships that we as the armed forces have with other countries," said Perrault. "It’s one of the good things the Marine Corps can do for you. You can work with different people and gain new experiences."

VMX-22 is scheduled to return in two months.