Marines take action — on the Common

They’re in Hub for week’s stay

By Brian R. Ballou
Globe Staff / May 4, 2010

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The war bird flew in low, using easy-to-spot landmarks. It hovered for a moment, landed in a clearing in the middle of the city, and unloaded its cargo of Marines.

The landing kicked off a weeklong show-and-tell on Boston Common and other city locales by the Marines, who came with disarming smiles and handshakes.

The public outreach events let the Corps “showcase what we can do as Americans’ 911 force,’’ Colonel Steve “Stick’’ Brodfeuhrer, who pilots the WV-22 Osprey, said before leaving Hanscom Air Force Base early yesterday in the airplane-helicopter hybrid.

Faneuil Hall, Copley Place, and the Charlestown Naval Yard are also slated to host events during Marine Week Boston, which runs through Sunday, when there will be a rededication of the 200-year-old Marine barracks at the Charlestown Navy Yard.

About 600 Marines will be in the city during the week, volunteering at food kitchens and parks and hosting other events in an effort to bring more visibility to the Marines and foster interest in the Corps.

Based on last year’s numbers, officials may not have to try very hard. As the Globe reported in January, Pentagon officials reported a banner year in 2009, based in part on the economy.

The strong recruitment year was fueled by high unemployment and provided a contrast to two years ago, when the Pentagon struggled to fill its ranks despite having offered five-figure enlistment bonuses and granted waivers to recruits who failed to meet standards.

Yesterday’s show of force, which included a spot on a hill where civilians could lie prone behind a machine gun fortified with sandbags, impressed many people who arrived for the kickoff, as well as those drawn to the Common by the unusual sight of the airships cruising past high-rises and landing in the park.

Students, office workers, and tourists admired the aircraft and asked Marines standing nearby about the capabilities of the ships, which spectators were allowed to view up close.

Andrew Monesi, 22, a student at Suffolk University, said he had just finished taking a final exam when he heard the roar of the engines.

When asked if Marine life was for him, he said: “I think it would be really cool to join, but there’s always the risk of dying, so it’s scary. Maybe for people on the bubble, I could see how they would want to join after seeing this today, because it shows the perks.’’

The MV-22 Osprey, a unique tilt-rotor aircraft that can take off and land as both a conventional aircraft and a helicopter, was one of four aircraft, including the larger CH-53E helicopter, that touched down on the Common yesterday, drawing crowds.

Major Paul “Sideshow’’ Kopacz, an Osprey pilot, called it a valuable transportation vehicle, able to quickly carry dozens of troops to hard-to-reach areas. “Is it a bird or a plane? The answer is it is a plane that can hover.’’

While the flight a Globe reporter took from Hanscom to Boston went smoothly, the Osprey has been dogged by design problems and political controversy. During the administration of the President George H.W. Bush, Congress overrode Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney’s efforts to cancel the program.

Once labeled a “widow maker,’’ the aircraft was pulled from deployment by the Pentagon in 2000 after crashes killed 23 Marines.

The aircraft underwent design upgrades and was first deployed to a combat environment in 2007, when a unit was sent to Iraq.

Last month, an Air Force model used to transport special forces crashed in Afghanistan, killing three servicemen and a civilian, officials have said.

The Air Force version costs $89 million apiece, according to the Air Force website.

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