Marines, airmen, sailors take to skies

20 May 2014 | Cpl. Sarah Cherry

Marine Aircraft Group 31 trained alongside Airforce and Navy units in a Large Force Exercise over the Atlantic Ocean, May 6. 

Participants conducted a long range strike which reinforced a variety of capabilities such as combatting surface-to-air threats, eliminating threats by enemy aircraft, and increasing interoperability.

Marine Fighter Attack Squadrons 115, 312 and 251, Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533, Marine Aircraft Group 31 and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31 participated in the exercise.

“This exercise required Marines to fight their way in and out of hostile territory with Marine Corps and Air Force assets on each side,” said Maj. Alexander Goodno, standardization and evaluation officer with Marine Aviation Training Support Squadron aboard the Air Station. 

“It prepares Marines for the realism of combat.”

Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility Jacksonville (FACSFACJAX) provided air coordination and ground control. 21st Fighter Squadron from Luke Air Force Base, Az., flew F-16 Fighting Falcons during the exercise. 159th Fighter Squadron with the Florida Air National Guard flew F-15 Eagles for the exercise. 

Air Station squadrons flew F-18s, provided ordnance and oversaw and coordinated the exercise.

“This training is valuable because it integrates Marines with other units and gives them a good understanding of how to work in harmony with other services,” said Goodno. “It requires a lot of assets, so it is a rare opportunity.”

The exercise extended from the coast of South Carolina down to Daytona, Fla. and inland to Pinecastle Bombing Range in Ocala National Forest, Fla. 

“When there are a lot of aircraft flying at the same time, it can get very complex,” said Goodno. “One of the challenges is coordinating with not only Marine air crew here, but communicating across a broad range of entities.”
Other units and assets from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort to Naval Air Station Jacksonville assisted with the exercise. Some of these assets tracked and recorded aircraft positions for analysis and review.

“This training allows them to think more critically and dynamically, and requires them to attack a challenging and unique situation,” said Goodno. “The Marines did outstanding. They had a safe plan that was executed well and handled complex coordination.”

The mission of MAG-31 is to conduct anti-air warfare and offensive air support operations. Training such as the Large Force Exercise makes sure that MAG-31 has a high level of readiness and ability beyond their call of duty.