MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Two Marine Corps aviation units combined forces at the Combat Center’s Prospect training area to prepare for their deployments later this year.
Marine Wing Support Squadron 372 and Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367, both from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., tested their knowledge, skills, and a new aircraft during the training.
The Marines of MWSS-372 set up a Forward Area Refueling Point at the training area to allow HMLA-367 pilots opportunities to push the limits of the new UH-1 Yankee Super Huey helicopter in a climate similar to areas in Afghanistan.
Both squadrons are currently participating in Enhanced Mojave Viper, a month-long pre-deployment training evolution here which integrates air, ground and support element exercises to prepare for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Stephen G. Rudinski, the MWSS-372 Air Ground Support Detachment expeditionary airfield and emergency services officer, said it was his unit’s mission to assess forward operating bases and FARPs during the EMV exercise.
“We’re focusing on assessing FARPs and training for air base ground defense, base recovery after attack, damage assessment teams, and more,” said Rudinski, a Wellsboro, Pen., native. “The airfield we’re operating out of makes us look at day-to-day life sustainment. We’re designed to support one FOB and two FARPs at any given time.”
1st Lt. Steve Draper, the MWSS-372 FARP prospect training mission commander, said for several Marines, this was the first time training in conditions so similar to that of Iraqi and Afghani climate and terrain.
“Right now we want to establish a FARP at Prospect in order to extend the capability of the MAGTF [Marine Air Ground Task Force],” said Draper, a West Milton, Ohio, native about the training mission. “It extends the time on station for attack birds, shortens transit time from their station back to the base, decreases time they need to fly back for fuel, and increases the overall scope of the MAGTF.”
Draper said having HMLA-367 join with them during the training is a great example of how operations may change with short notice while in theater and allows the HMLA-367 Marines chances to conduct maintenance operations, refuel and rearm aircrafts, and stage the birds over-night like they would in real operations.
“When we get to Afghanistan, will be asked to do this exact same mission,” he said. “We're going to be asked to go to a site that's never been constructed before, one that’s totally austere. Depending on the type of soil you’re working with, it can be long process. We’ve never set up our own FARP like this and we’ve seen many lessons learned. This training is practical, very realistic to what we’ll see in Afghanistan, and it’s beneficial for both units.”
Capt. Bret Morriss, a UH-1 Yankee pilot with HMLA-367, said although the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit was the first to use three of the new aircraft, his unit will be the first to deploy having fully transitioned into flying the new bird.
Aside from the UH-1Y having more power, agility, offensive weapons and crew-carrying capabilities than the UH-1 Twin Huey, one of the key differences is that the UH-1Y has a left-side fuel port, meaning aircraft fuelers need to adjust their operations on the ground as well as the mechanics.
Lance Cpl. Tim Tynan and Cpl. Michael Carlin, two helicopter mechanics and specialists with HMLA-367, said they had to go back to school to learn about the new aircraft prior to their first deployments this year.
“This is definitely good training for Marines who have not deployed yet,” said Tynan, a native of Healdsburg, Calif. “It’s great for guys who don’t know what to expect in a deployment so we can be more combat-ready.”
Carlin, a native of Klamath Falls, Ore., said he agrees and thinks the training prepares all the air wing Marines involved.
“This is catching us up to speed,” he said. “This is also great since the Yankees haven’t been operated in really high altitude yet. This is a faster pace for the aircraft so we can know what it can do.”