Photo Information

Marines with Marine Air Control Squadron 2, Detachment A, prepare Phantom Lights to create an Expeditionary runway during Marine Air Traffic Control Mobile Team training aboard the Air Station, Sept. 12. The Marines created a simulated runway for Airforce pilots of the 165th Airlift Wing in Savannah, Ga., to practice assault landing techniques using night vision. Marines certified to be on an MMT team can establish an expeditionary runway in as few as 20 minutes that can be used for troop movements, evacuations, refueling aircraft and humanitarian efforts in the United States or abroad.

Photo by Cpl. Timothy Norris

Marines, airmen train for expeditionary aviation landings

19 Sep 2013 | Cpl. Timothy Norris

The sun is setting in the Lowcountry with a red, purple and blue gradient painted across the sky. Three Marines wearing flak jackets and kevlars run down the airfield aboard the Air Station counting their paces. Every five hundred feet they stop, realign, and mark the left and right lateral limits of a simulated forward arming and refueling point (FARP), using lights visible only with night vision. 

In the failing light, they count the last of 3,000 feet and mark the end of their expeditionary runway.  A few minutes pass and a C-130 Hercules comes into view against the last light of the sun.

A Marine with a radio guides the pilot to the ground without assistance from radar equipment, and the behemoth lands several feet past the first set of lights. The propellers roar as the aircraft slows to a stop several hundred feet before the end. 

A moment later the C-130 is back in the air circling around for another approach. 

Marines with Marine Air Control Squadron 2, Detachment A, assisted the 165th Airlift Wing, stationed at Savannah Air National Guard Base in Pooler, Ga., with assault landing and night vision landing training. 

The Marines were simultaneously training to be certified members of a Marine Air Traffic Control Mobile Team, or MMT, which provides initial rapid response air traffic control services in austere environments for Marines around the world, said 1st Lt. Joshua Langham, MACS-2 watch commander and MMT team leader.

The Corps uses MMT’s comprised of six Marines or less to set up short runways where needed to provide forward landing zones for troop movements and evacuations, refuel aircraft or assist with humanitarian operations.

“The MMT is the most employable asset the wing has to offer because of how highly versatile we are,” Langham said. “These operations provide real life training and build confidence and proficiency, so we can go downrange.”

The training relationship between MACS-2 and the 165th started with a phone call from the airmen in Georgia requesting to use the airfield for night training. The coordinator referred them to MACS-2 to see if they could provide support.

“I let them know we would coordinate for the use of the airfield and requested that they allow us to build their assault landing zone for our training enhancement.” said Staff Sgt. Alexander Bruffy, MACS-2 operations chief.

Both units discovered the possibility for reciprocating training opportunities and soon had a training plan. 

“After that it was a verbal handshake and we started working from there,” Bruffy said. “Since then it’s been a mutually beneficial relationship.”

It may have been the first time MACS-2 worked with the airlift wing, but it won’t be the last. 

After several landings in the dark, the C-130 took off and turned south into the starry night returning to Georgia.  The giant aircraft disappeared into the blanket of darkness and the sound of the propellers followed shortly after. 

The Marines gathered their gear quickly and left the runway without a trace of their presence, just as they would downrange.