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Thunderbolts, Sidewinders change focus: mission remains the same

By Cpl. John Jackson | | April 12, 2007

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Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251 and Navy Strike Fighter Squadron 86 transitioned into a new phase of training during their second week at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nev.

Both squadrons came to Fallon last week to participate in approximately three weeks of training – primarily to drop live ordnance.

“The overall mission of putting bombs on target has not changed,” said Maj. Kevin Murray, the Thunderbolts operations officer. “The main difference this week is we will collectively train with the Air Wing.”

While both VMFA-251 and VFA-86 are stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, they also conduct operations off the flight deck of the USS Enterprise as a part of Carrier Air Wing One.

During the first week of training here, each of the eight squadrons that make up CVW-1 focused on squadron-level training. The following two weeks of training they will focus on training as an Air Wing.

“It’s essential for us to be out here getting this training,” Murray said. “It’s important that we learn the tactics, techniques and the procedures to work together.”

The overall mission of dropping live ordnance still remains the goal for each squadron, according to Murray. In the first week of the detachment, both the Sidewinders and Thunderbolts dropped approximately 90,000 pounds of ordnance.

The squadrons will work as one team for the next two weeks using a building-block approach of training.

“Training will be conducted in a crawl, walk, run style,” Murray said. “(The Air Wing) will be doing several different types of training together.”

Some of the training the squadrons will include surface-to-air counter tactics, self-escort strikes and working as a special-forces team at night, according to Lt. Cmdr. Larry DeLong, the Sidewinders operations officer.

“The training operations will continue to increase as well, as the strikes get larger throughout training,” DeLong said. 

Besides squadron-level training and training as an Air Wing, both squadrons have accomplished other goals.

“We have had a very successful detachment thus far,” Delong said. “We’ve built experience for new sailors, dropped several different types of ordnance and got several pilots new qualifications.”

With one week of training left here, the squadrons look forward to maximizing their next seven days of training.

“We love training here,” Murray said. “Being able to train in Fallon allows us the unique opportunity to do several different training exercises all at one place.”

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