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MAG-31 revs engines up for LFE

By Lance Cpl. Zachary Dyer | | August 11, 2006

The Marines and sailors of Marine Aircraft Group 31 are preparing for Coastal K-Bar, a joint exercise that is scheduled to begin Tuesday. The three-day, Large Force Exercise at Townsend Bombing Range, Ga., which will bring together assets from the Air Force and Army as well as the Marine Corps, is designed to train aircrews in various aspects of air combat.

“Coastal K-Bar is going to be a three-day exercise that will train aircrew to their most likely mission sets,” said Maj. Sean DeWolfe, an officer with the MAG Training Officer Cell.

The types of missions that aircrew will train to during the exercise will cover everything from air interdiction and close air support to forward air control airborne and strike coordination and reconnaissance, according to DeWolfe.

“It differs from a normal LFE due to the amount of joint assets participating,” DeWolfe said “As far as LFEs go, this is the widest variety that I have seen at the Group level.”

The joint assets include two Marine Reserve Hornet squadrons from Fort Worth, Texas, and Atlanta, several Air Force units from various installations, Army AH-64 Apache helicopters from McEntire Air National Guard Base and Joint Terminal Air Controllers from Savannah, Ga., Washington state and Hawaii,  according to DeWolfe.

“U.S. military strategy emphasizes that air, land, sea, and special operations forces must be capable of working together in large-scale combat operations,” DeWolfe said. “The major regional theaters that the United States armed forces are engaged in today illustrates the diverse missions that they can expect to perform. Training opportunities, such as Coastal K-Bar, provide an invaluable opportunity to test and fine tune our interoperability.”  

These assets require a great deal of coordination to set up and to track while the exercise is underway. The responsibility for most of that coordination rests in the hands of the Tony Diaz, the mission coordinator at the Air Station’s Tactical Aircrew Combat Training System facility.

“There are at least 14 outside units from the joint community training with MAG-31,” Diaz said. “We can track everything from here, run all of the communications, and debrief aircrews – all in one building.”

Using radar and other tracking devices, the TACTS personnel keep tabs on everything that happens in the air and evaluate the success of the mission, according to Diaz.

“Other units like to train with us because they can come here, do their training, and fly back home,” Diaz said.

The coordination was not only between the various units participating in the exercise, but also with the two communities neighboring the bombing range, Ludowici and Townsend, Ga., according to Diaz.

“We have a very good working relationship with the local law enforcement,” Diaz said. “They will actually be working alongside our ground personnel to ensure safety and maximize the training available. They will be there to make sure that anything conducted outside Townsend Range happens in a safe manner.”

One advantage of the exercise taking place at Townsend Range is that noise complaints, something usually associated with increased aircraft activity, are not a problem, according to Diaz.

“The aircraft will be out over the ocean, fly over the woods to Townsend Range, and then back out,” Diaz said. “There are no issues with noise.”

It also helps that the local communities generally embrace their military neighbors.

“They are very patriotic towns,” Diaz said of Ludowici and Townsend. “They actually like to see the jets fly over. They are very supportive of their troops in training.”