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MWSS-273 heads to Desert Talon

By Pfc. Jason D. Mills | | June 2, 2006

The Sweat Hogs of Marine Wing Support Squadron 273 are preparing to deploy to Iraq later this summer and will be conducting training exercises at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., from June 5 through June 25, as part of their pre-deployment training cycle.

Desert Talon, the aviation community’s pre-deployment certification evaluation exercise, is designed to mirror desert operations. 

“Desert Talon is a three-tier mission really, it will evaluate our ability to conduct the 14 functions of aviation ground support, to conduct a pre-deployment training continuum and to provide aviation ground support to the flying squadrons that will also be training during Desert Talon as well,” said Lt. Col. Jeff Hooks, the commanding officer of MWSS-273.

Yuma will provide a superb training environment and will enable the Sweat Hogs to conduct live-fire training for all hands and refine the squadron’s operating procedures in a field environment free of daily distractions that may be faced in a garrison environment, according to Hooks.

“We are holding the exercise in Yuma because it simulates the desert environment, and you can’t do that on the East Coast like you can in Yuma,” Hooks said. “The sand and the high desert heat all make for a great training environment for the events that we will deal with while we are in Iraq.”

In the past, exercises such as this were neither required nor evaluated for Marine aviation units preparing to go to Iraq, but things are different now for the Sweat Hogs.

“The major difference between Desert Talon and our other training exercises, such as Battle Hog, is that we are going to be evaluated by an outside agency, while our other training exercises were purely an internal training evolution,” said Maj. Jason Pratt, the operations officer for MWSS-273. “If we were our only critics then it would be easy to gloss over some of our deficiencies.”

Desert Talon will actually be more of a refinement exercise, than a training exercise, according to Hooks.

“We are looking forward to doing it,” Hooks said. “This is a chance to see if we are on target with the training that we have been doing; this is the first integrated training exercise that ‘273 has participated in since our return from Iraq in September of 2004.”

With an Iraq deployment looming on the horizon, Desert Talon is the last hurdle for the Sweat Hogs. 

“I’m ready to go,” said Pfc. Carlos Pickney, an admin clerk with MWSS-273. “I’m excited for my first deployment.”