July 27- Aug. 7 -- Integrated training exercises pull pieces from all branches of the military to create a working force like no other. Exercise Palmetto Fire is a joint service exercise that was took place at the Townsend Bombing Range and Fort Stewart Army Base in Georgia, July 27 - Aug. 7.
“The exercise incorporates Marine Corps, Air Force, and Navy aircraft,” said Capt. Brian Radler the Air Officer with 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion.
Palmetto Fire is an air-to-ground exercise that involves tactical reinforcements of aircraft for the 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion and the 15th Air Support Operations Squadron.
“The exercise is hosted by [Marine Aircraft Group] 31 with the mission of training and upgrading the aircrew Marines of [Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadrons] 533 and 224 as forward air controllers,” said Capt. Jason Whitaker, the weapons systems training officer for VMFA-224. “The ground troops can utilize this exercise to learn and rehearse information back and forth amongst the pilots in the air.”
Units along the east coast will participate in the exercise, from Marine Corps Air Station New River, NC, down to Mayport Naval Station, Fla.
“We will utilize mortars, fixed wing aircraft, and rotary aircraft,” said Whitaker.
The forward air control will provide the ground troops a with better visual and extra support in the case of a real life situation. With the exercise taking place in close proximity to the Air Station, it is possible for the aircraft to carry ordnance from the Air Station to the bombing range.
“For the guys on the deck and the ones executing forward air control, they will go out on the battlefield and find targets that need to be prosecuted with indirect fire assets,” said Whitaker. “Then, either mortars, artillery or aviation ordnance will be used to destroy, suppress, or neutralize the targets on the field.”
It’s been eight years since MAG- 31 has executed a large-scale exercise utilizing live ordnance. Training with ordnance allows the Marines to familiarize themselves with the process and become more proficient in their military occupation specialty.
“We are loading inert ordnance on the jets, giving the ordnance Marines an opportunity to work with the simulated bombs,” said Whitaker. “We don’t often get the opportunity to work with or load ordnance, but it’s beneficial to both the ordnance Marines and the aircrew. It’s a great opportunity.”
All units played their role in the joint training exercise, and will be more prepared to execute successful future missions when the call is made.