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MAG-31, ‘273 conduct exercise in Ga

By Pfc. Dane M. Horst | | January 20, 2006

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Marine Aircraft Group 31 and Marine Wing Support Squadron 273, recently put their skills to the test during a training exercise at the Bulldog training area in Wadley, Ga., Jan. 10-12.The Wadley Urban Close Air Support and Convoy Escort Exercise, which involved Marine Fighter Attack Squadrons 115, 122, All-Weather Squadrons 224 and 533 and elements of the 20th Fighter Wing operating from Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, S.C. consisted of urban close air support and convoy escort. The purpose of the exercise was to give MAG-31 and MWSS-273 the opportunity to work together in scenario-based combat environments and to focus toward mission accomplishment while preparing for upcoming deployments, according to Lt. Col. Michael Huff, the MAG-31 large force exercise coordinator.During the exercise, a convoy of eight MWSS-273 vehicles drove the country roads of Jefferson County in simulated combat conditions while in constant contact with air support. “It’s a good communication exercise between the planes and the trucks,” said Sgt. James Winberry, an assistant convoy commander, MWSS-273. “This was the first time for most of my Marines to talk to pilots while in a convoy.” The Sweat Hogs improved on their ability to detect improvised explosive devices and simulated casualty evacuations. They also practiced calling in air support from the squadrons flying overhead.“Because some convoys get attacked while on deployment, one of the priority missions for the squadrons in Iraq is convoy escort,” said Maj. Scott Creed, the MAG-31 training officer.Air support does not always mean that a jet will always fly in and drop bombs or engage the enemy; the pilots can use other tactics to help the Marines on the ground, according to Huff. Just the noise of U.S. jets and coalition aircraft is usually enough to keep the enemy running or hiding.Planning for the exercise took a month and planning for future exercises is already underway. The exercise required the integration of Marines working together with local authorities simulating a wartime environment. “We had very good training and a lot of lessons were learned out of it,” said Huff. “The interaction between the aircrew and convoys exceeded all of the training objectives that we had,” he said.“The training was great to have, especially before we deploy to Iraq in the next few weeks,” said Capt. Travis Brittain, a weapons and sensors officer for VMFA-533, “It was definitely an opportunity to hone our skills and perfect our communications with Marines during the execution of convoy operations.”
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