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Deployed Marines keep safe under MACS-2 radar

23 Jul 2004 | Cpl. Craig A. Sherman Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort

The Marines from Marine Air Control Squadron 2 have been one of the most deployed units in the Marine Corps during the last two years. Their tasks range from air defense controller to radar technician.

Marine Air Control Squadron 2 is part of Marine Air Control Group 28, stationed out of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. The MACS-2 Detachment “A”, aboard the Air Station, is one of three detachments that compose the entire MACS. 

“The squadron is composed of a tactical air operations center, an early warning and a control detachment,” said Capt. Jason Sharp, detachment commander, MACS-2. “The detachment at the Air Station is the tactical part of MACS-2. Our Marines deploy to a forward area and set up terminal approach radar for allied aircraft operating in the area.”

A terminal approach radar gives the Marines a picture of the sky so they can detect, identify, control and intercept hostile aircraft and missiles. They also provide tactical air traffic control to all allied aircraft.

“Our squadron operates in assignments which allied air power is always needed to complete the mission,” Sharp said. “During Operation Iraqi Freedom our Marines marched in to Baghdad and set up radar in the surrounding airfields. We set up and operated forward radar stations out of Jordan during Operation Southern Watch. We even watched the skies over Utah during the 2002 Winter Olympics.”

Detachment “A” has 120 Marines, while the entire squadron contains more than 530 Marines. The Marines who are stationed with MACS-2 specialize in several different jobs that help safe guard a Marine Air Ground Task Force.

“Our detachment is known for providing radar for allied aircraft in forward areas,” Sharp said.  “We have air defense controllers, which are different from actual air traffic controllers because they look out for threats from enemy aircraft or missiles. They also control the aircraft during missions, which includes air to air combat and bombing runs.”

Another job that Marines attached to MACS-2 must complete is setting up the radar systems. These radar technicians are the men and women who follow the infantry and set up the radar stations that controllers operate. They also help repair any equipment that might break and provide security for the forward base.

Marine Air Control Squadron 2 has been sending their Marines out into the forward area since April 1, 1944, when they were called Marine Air Warning Squadron 11. During their first 30 years, MAWS 11 provided early warning to aircraft operating over Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Twenty years later, MAWS was renamed MACS-2 and in 1993 detachment “A” relocated to Fightertown.

“During our recent tours of service, MACS-2 has earned the Presidential Unit Citation Award and the Central Intelligence Agency Seal Medallion,” said Master Sgt. Scott Simmons, staff non-commissioned officer in charge, MACS-2. “We were awarded the medallion in recognition of outstanding performance while executing a covert intelligence collection operation.”

Detachment “A” is again preparing to replace its Marines who are stationed in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. This six-month long deployment is part of a normal rotation for the MACS-2 Marines.

“Without MACS-2, there would be no air picture and no control of allied aircraft,” Sharpe said. “Without controllers there would be no war because you could not determine friend or foe in the air and could not protect the MAGTF.”