MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. --
DJIBOUTI, AFRICA – Four F/A-18 Hornet squadrons from Carrier Air Wing 1, currently deployed on the USS Enterprise, participated in a close-air-support exercise at Godoria Bombing Range in Djibouti, Africa, Aug. 6.
Navy Strike Fighter Squadrons 86, 136 and 211 along with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251 had the opportunity to participate in one more training exercise before they begin combat operations.
“The purpose of the training is to practice close-air-support techniques, tactics and procedures,” said Maj. Kevin Murray, the VMFA-251 operations officer and the pilot who put the exercise together. “This not only gives the pilots one last opportunity to drop live ordnance before combat, but also gives the ordnance Marines and sailors a chance to load live weapons.”
Overall, the squadrons dropped 54 MK-82 and MK-83 bombs on the range in Djibouti.
“The live loading evolution gave ordnance Marines and sailors the opportunity to handle, inspect and load the real deal,” said Gunnery Sgt. Kevin Glydewell, the VMFA-251 ordnance staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge. “Although we treat all weapons as if they were live, we don't always have the opportunity to physically prepare, inspect, see and handle them. It's a great time to get the junior Marines and sailors involved as well.”
In addition to loading and dropping live ordnance, some Marines and sailors on the Enterprise also had the unique opportunity to be Forward Air Controllers on the ground at the range.
“Our main mission on the ground as the (Forward Air Controllers) was to provide the pilots in the skies the information they need to drop bombs on targets,” Murray said. “When flying combat operations in support of OEF or OIF, pilots will be doing the exact same tactics and techniques that we use on the range, while listening to FACs on the ground.”
Together, Carrier Air Wing 1 hasn’t done close-air-support exercises since being at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nev., in April. Being able to have one more exercise before combat flights start was essential for the squadrons, according to Murray.
"It was a great training opportunity to stay proficient,” said Navy Lt. Richard Woodward, a VFA-86 pilot. “Working with ground controllers, as well as flying alongside jets from other squadrons in the Air Wing, provides real world application and allows us to be a more flexible fighting force."
“The event was highly successful,” Murray said. “The more training everyone can receive before starting combat operations, the more proficient we all will be when the fight is on.”