MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
The Combat Center has added crucial increases of aviation elements to add more realism to its Enhanced Mojave Viper ground training beginning Aug. 10.
The Combat Center’s Tactical Training Exercise Control Group has initiated a new aviation training contingency plan to integrate with EMV, a month-long pre-deployment package required for all Marine Corps units deploying to Iraq or Afghanistan.
Under this plan, the Marine Corps is bringing an aviation contingent to the Expeditionary Airfield here for approximately 21 days, according to an Aug. 4 Combat Center press release.
Lt. Col. Keith C. Darby II, the TTECG aviation training team officer in charge, said this improved training will emphasize the importance of practicing authentic aviation and ground integration.
“This training gets us back to our Marine Corps roots of air-ground integration,” said Darby, a Charlottesville, Va., native. “It’s a core skill we’ve gotten away from in the last few years and we need to get back to it. The way the Marine Corps wins the nation’s battles is through application of air fires and maneuver … in conjunction with the young Marine standing on the ground. You achieve a synergistic effect having those two elements working together to accomplish the task.”
The standard template for the aircraft, involved in the training is estimated to be 10 or 12 tactical aircraft, such as jets; 10 assault support aircraft, such as CH-46 Sea Knights; and 15 skid aircraft, such as AH-1W Super Cobras and UH-1N Hueys; averaging around 35 aircraft total, Darby said.
Capt. Shea Allen, the airframes officer in charge of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364 out of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., said this is his first exposure to combined arms training and said the logistics, communication and planning needed to organize the training is exactly what the units need to prepare for theater operations.
“HMM-364 operates in support of infantry,” said Allen, an Aspen, Co., native. “The more we practice our skills with ground elements, the better prepared we will be for deployments in the future. I think we will learn what to expect from each other and put faces with the names on the other side of the radio.”
Lt. Col. Bob Boucher, the HMM-364 commanding officer, had participated in similar combined arms exercises at the Combat Center in 2002.
“I think the biggest improvements I’ve seen since then is how they have integrated everyone so much more,” said Bouche, a Spokane, Wash., native. “We’re deploying with 3/24 [3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment], who happens to be here training with us. It’s an outstanding opportunity to train with them and get to know their staff before we deploy.”
The Marines of 3/24 and HMM-364 are scheduled to deploy to Iraq later this fall.
The Marine Corps expects the aviation contingent to become a recurring piece of each EMV exercise as it continues to train Marines and sailors for deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and wherever the nation's leadership sends them, according to the press release.
Darby said the goal is to increase this type of training steadily over the next year or two so it may take place on average six times a year.
“We should have all pieces in place by next summer,” Darby said.