Twentynine Palms -- Marine Wing Support Detachment 31, which is based out of Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C., supported Integrated Training Exercise 1-18 through the reconstruction of three helicopter landing zones at training area Lead Mountain, Nov. 1- 13, 2017.
The reconstruction of the landing zones allows for sufficient support of rotary operating wings aboard the Combat Center which, in turn, allows the wing to conduct the training necessary to remain an effective fighting force.
MWSD-31 was assigned to rebuild the landing zones in place of a Marine Wing Support Squadron. This means that the detachment was expected to provide the same level of quality and proficiency with a lack of personnel. This manpower deficiency provided the detachment with a unique set of challenges during the rebuilding.
“We successfully prepared for this exercise with the amount of heavy equipment operators and equipment we need to complete the mission,” said Staff Sgt. Jorge Gonzales, heavy equipment operator chief, MWSD-31. “Being understaffed presented challenges coordinating with support and we had to pull from our internal resources but overall the Marines worked very hard and met the timeline set forth for completion of the landing pads.”
The landing zones are designed to last for a short period of time, resulting in reconstruction every six months to a year. The process consists of surveying the land to determine its natural layout and slope, a route reconnaissance and an engineer reconnaissance. After drafting all of the information, the operator chief is able to relay the knowledge to the equipment operators so they can begin the labor. With the repeated updates of the HLZs, opportunities to conduct training readiness events are provided frequently.
“I find this project to be very beneficial to our unit,” said Cpl. Elmer Araiza, heavy equipment operator, MWSD-31. “The dirt gear is like a language, so being able to come participate in this project allows us to hone our skills.”
According to Gonzales, the reconstruction of the landing zones is not only important to the unit, but to the Marine Corps and the public. It provides a real life scenario to better train Marines in the event of a deployment, rendering them unfailingly ready to answer the Nation’s call.