- A Marine unit released a video of an aircraft squadron preparing for takeoff with a large stuffed tiger.
- The video never explained the tiger, but Insider learned that his name is Tyreese.
- The stuffed tiger is part of a long tradition of stuffed tigers going back to the 1950s.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
There is a Marine Corps aircraft squadron that deploys with a rather large stuffed tiger.
The 1st Marine Air Wing posted a short video on Twitter in March of MV-22B Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft with squadron VMM-262 (REIN) taking off from the amphibious assault ship USS America, and in the video, one service member can be seen handing off a big stuffed tiger to another, presumably to load it onto an aircraft.
-1st MAW Marines (@1stMAW_Marines) March 11, 2021
The video never offered any explanation of the stuffed tiger rocking aviation goggles, so Insider asked the Marines about it.
It turns out the tiger’s name is Tyreese, and he is part of a longstanding tradition for the squadron, a 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit official said.
Squadron VMM-262 is nicknamed the “Flying Tigers” and has been represented by a stuffed tiger for almost seven decades.
Tyreese is the squadron’s third mascot. The first was Cedric, who was “born” in 1952, about one year after the Corps stood up the squadron at Cherry Point, North Carolina.
The squadron started out as Marine Helicopter Transport Squadron (HMR) 262 but was redesignated as Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 262 the following year, when the squadron relocated to New River, North Carolina.
Though the squadron was activated during the Korean War, it remained stateside during the conflict. HMM-262’s first overseas operations did not come until 1965, when the squadron participated in the US intervention in the Dominican Republic’s civil war. A year later, the squadron deployed to Vietnam. On its return, it was stationed in Hawaii.
Due to limited records, it is unclear where exactly Cedric came from or why the squadron needed a stuffed animal mascot, but stories about the stuffed animal have been preserved in the memories of those who served with the squadron.
Joseph “Jake” Jacobs, a former squadron member who now serves as the head of the HMM-262 Combat Helicopter Association, recalled that Marines from some of the other helicopter and fighter jet squadrons occasionally “tiger-napped” Cedric.
He also said that Cedric was dropped out of a Huey at one point and squashed in another altercation that left him “a bit worn out” and “having lost some stuffing.”
The HMM-262 tiger mascot eventually had to be replaced with a new stuffed tiger, Cedric II.
Cedric II is the commanding officer’s tiger and can still be seen on display in the CO’s spaces.
First Lt. Stephanie Murphy, a 31st MEU spokeswoman, told Insider that “as Cedric II is advanced in age, he doesn’t leave the office much but still makes an appearance at formal events.”
Tyreese, the newest stuffed tiger representing what is now designated as Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262, belongs to the Flightline Division and the roughly 40 Marines in the shop.
“Tyreese participates a bit more with the division due to his proximity to the Marines,” Murphy said, adding that “he travels with the squadron and has a home within the shop.”
As their mascot, Tyreese comes along on their detachments and deployments, and they also bring him along for photo-ops and final flights for aircrew who are leaving the unit.
HMM-262 flew Boeing CH-46 Sea Knight medium-lift tandem-rotor transport helicopters until 2013, when the aging aircraft were replaced with MV-22B Ospreys. It was at that point that the squadron was redesignated as VMM-262.
The MV-22 Osprey is a tilt-rotor aircraft that can land and takeoff vertically like a helicopter but fly in a turboprop aircraft configuration.
The squadron’s mission is to support US military operations worldwide by transporting troops, supplies, and equipment, sometimes on short notice.
When attached to a MEU, VMM-262 is reinforced with detachments from other aviation squadrons and serves as the aviation combat element for MEU contingency missions.
Based out of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, Japan, the squadron has been a part of a number of immediate-response missions following natural disasters, such as devastating typhoons and earthquakes, in the Pacific.
VMM-262 was part of the US military response after Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in 2013, after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked Nepal in 2015, and after Typhoon Yutu hit Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands in 2018. It is unclear if their stuffed tiger came along for the ride.