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Sandbox on horizon for Sweat Hogs of MWSS-273

By Pfc. Jason D. Mills | | June 30, 2006

The Marines of Marine Wing Support Squadron 273, preparing to deploy to Iraq later this summer, conducted training exercises here, as part of their pre-deployment training cycle for the past three weeks.

Desert Talon is the aviation community’s pre-deployment certification evaluation exercise that mirrors desert operations.

With temperatures ranging from the low 90s at night and a boiling 110 degrees every day the Sweat Hogs of MWSS-273 learned what it really meant to be a Sweat Hog.

“We came out here to, as closely as we could, simulate life, as it could be, in Iraq,” said Lt. Col. Jeff Hooks, the commanding officer of MWSS-273. “We wanted to let the Marines feel the heat out here to prepare them for a desert environment.”

The unit shipped over all of their equipment and close to 500 Marines and sailors to Arizona for the exercise. They were tested in their ability to deploy along with operating in a combat situation.

“Our original mission was two fold,” Hooks said. “First was the safe move out here, which was a success. Secondly was the evaluation of our aviation ground support and of course to complete our pre-deployment training before we go to Iraq.”

After a successful evaluation period MWSS-273 is now officially ready for Iraq. Some of the evaluations focused on the establishment of a fully capable forward arming refueling point, the readiness of the Incident Response Platoon Marines and the seamless integration of all parts of the Air Wing, said Maj. Jason Pratt, operations officer for MWSS-273.

“The evaluations have been great,” said Maj. Jim Stone, the executive officer of MWSS-273. “They have been brutally honest but that is what is needed. It’s better to make mistakes here rather than in theater.”

Although the evaluations were difficult the Sweat Hogs of MWSS-273 passed with good marks, according to Hooks. If, for some reason, the Sweat Hogs had not passed the evaluations then the training operation would have been extended for remedial training or they would have been given suggestions for improvement before their deployment to Iraq, depending on the severity of the failing score.

“We passed the evaluation,” Pratt said. “It was an absolute success. It has been very busy and we are now better trained for Iraq than we were before.”

Desert Talon ended June 22. After nearly three weeks of intense training the Marines of MWSS-273 are ready for their deployment to Iraq later this summer, according to Hooks.

“I absolutely feel that now, after my training here at Desert Talon, I am better prepared for my deployment to Iraq,” said Cpl. Terry Wells, a supply Marine for MWSS-273.

During Desert Talon each Marine, regardless of their job, was presented with an opportunity to train.

“I got to do a lot of things that I know will benefit me in Iraq,” said Cpl. Edward Watson, the legal chief for MWSS-273. “Practice is good, the more you do something the more proficient you become.”