MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. --
An insurgent is almost done planting a roadside Improvised Explosive Device as a convoy of Marine Wing Support Squadron 273 vehicles approach.
As he wipes his forehead, sweating from the sweltering heat, he hears an F/A-18 Hornet from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312 screaming overhead and he begins to run, thinking he can avoid detection and return to complete his life-threatening mission.
The convoy comes to a complete stop 200 yards away as an Army AH-64 Apache helicopter from the 1-151st Attack Recon Battalion, stationed out of McEntire Air National Guard Station, SC, provides close air-support, taking out both the IED and the insurgent.
The convoy carrying nearly 40 Fightertown Marines and corpsmen continues on their route safely.
This realistic scenario is not taking place in Iraq, but in training during the joint-service Large Force Exercise held in locations throughout Beaufort July 17 and 18.
“The goal of the LFE was to provide and train aircrew, with both Marine Aircraft Group 31 and 1-151st ABR, offering realistic scenarios for potential missions in Iraq,” said Capt. Dennis Dalton, the MAG-31 LFE coordinator. “Despite the complexity of this exercise and how many points of coordination were required to make this happen, we feel that we exceeded everyone’s expectations and provided the highest level of training for all participating units.”
Approximately 600 service members from four Fightertown F/A-18 squadrons, the Provost Marshals Office, MWSS-273, MAG-31, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, MCAS Branch Medical Clinic, and the Tactical Aircrew Combat Training System took part in this training. Furthermore, personnel from Weapons Training Battalion at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, the Beaufort County Sheriffs Department, 1-151st ARB and the Air Force’s 15th Air Support Operations Squadron based out of Fort Stewart also played a pivotal role in the joint exercise.
“Joint operations are common in theater and we have established a strong relationship with 1-151st ARB by conducting exercises and operating together in Iraq during the last two years,” Dalton said.
Over the course of the two-day LFE both the roles of the joint forces and the opposing forces were played-out for a realistic effect, said Tony Diaz, the mission coordinator for Air Station TACTS. The insurgents, commonly referred to as OpFor, prepared scenarios to include vehicle, boat and roadside IEDs at locations on Highway 21, the Whale Branch Bridge and the Broad River Bridge.
On Parris Island’s Page Field, Marines from WTBn assumed the roles of armed insurgents while Air Station EOD Marines set up simulated IEDs. Fightertown F/A-18s and the Army AH-64 Apaches provided air support for the ground units attempting to convoy through the area.
“It was value-added training for air crew who don’t get to operate in this type of environment on a daily basis,” said Maj. Ray Davis, the executive officer for the 1-151st ARB. “And the feedback that we get from conducting exercises such as this before deploying to Iraq is instrumental to success in combat operations.”