An Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) directs MV–22 Ospreys assigned to the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron VMM 166 (Reinforced) aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) in the Pacific Ocean, July 31. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian Jeffries)

PACIFIC OCEAN - The amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) will become the first West Coast ship to deploy with the MV-22 Osprey this fall.

Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 166 (Reinforced) is embarked on Boxer as a part of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), and will deploy with a complement of 12 Ospreys.

The Osprey is intended to replace the CH-46E Sea Knight, the platform the Marine Corps has used since the Vietnam War. The Osprey can carry more combat troops and has a further flight range than the Sea Knight.

"The incorporation of the MV-22 Osprey greatly expands our area of influence, and increases the speed with which the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Commander is able to respond to crises and mass forces on the Objective," said Maj. Frank Garner, 13th MEU air officer. "The unique flight capabilities of the Osprey provides unprecedented advantage to warfighters, allowing Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) Mission Essential Tasks (METs) to be accomplished more efficiently, while enhancing Marine Expeditionary Unit/Amphibious Ready Group (MEU/ARG) relevance in Combatant Commander (COCOM) Theaters," he added.

The Osprey is a tilt rotor aircraft flown by the U.S. Marine Corps, which utilizes vertical short takeoff and landing (V/STOL) capabilities. Until recently, the Osprey has seen limited use aboard large deck ships due to its unique design and the modifications required for large deck amphibious ships.

Although Boxer will be the first West Coast ship to deploy with Ospreys, the USS Bataan (LHD 5), stationed in Norfolk, became the first ship overall to deploy with Ospreys in an amphibious environment in 2009.

The crew members aboard Boxer and VMM-166 have trained in several technical areas, such as airframes, hydraulics and avionics, electrical systems, maintenance control to prepare for Boxers upcoming deployment.

"The biggest challenge is the amount of training that we had to accomplish," said Cpl. Neal Helfrey, a flight line mechanic attached to VMM-166. "Half the squadron hasn't deployed before, so the most difficult thing was putting all this training into the timeframe allotted."

The Boxer Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) is underway off the coast of Southern California completing a Certification Exercise (CERTEX). CERTEX is the final evaluation of the 13th MEU and Boxer ARG prior to their Fall deployment and is intended to certify their readiness to conduct integrated missions across the full spectrum of military operations.