Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. --
The hour and a half flight was fatiguing. Even though the KC-130 flew through clear skies, the high buzz of the propellers sounded as if sand was being thrown into it.
A platoon of reconnaissance Marines were crunched in its cargo area awaiting their arrival in the mountains. Their weapons never left their hands.
The KC-130 Hercules landed in an area more than 6, 000 ft above sea level. As the rear of the plane lowered its doors, recon rushed out.
Marines with 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion conducted an air raid exercise in the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center training areas Sept. 17, 2012.
The exercise made the most of air to ground integrations with the use of an assault force as well as the KC-130s, MV-22 Ospreys, AH-1Z Super Cobras, F/A-18 Hornets, and Omega Tanker.
The battalion, currently at the Combat Center for Enhance Mojave Viper, traveled approximately hundreds of miles in a KC-130 and Ospreys, escorted by four F/A-18s to fight off aggressors in route.
“We practice integration in the objective area, but when you take that objective area and stretch it 300 nautical miles away you expose a lot of other mission essential tasks that come with it,” said Lt. Col. Robert Freeland, Marine Medium Tilt-rotor Squadron 162, commanding officer. “The V-22s flew a long way. We were able to get up to altitude and take advantage of characteristics to burn less gas, to go a little faster and stay clear of some of the turbulence that we can run into down below.”
The assault force was divided into two training areas, Hawthorne and Sweet Water, each with a specific objectives. The V-22s dropped 37 Marines off at the Hawthorne training areas, where the main raid took place. Recon Marines entered and cleared buildings until they reached a simulated high value target.
Flying above the Marines were two AH-1Z Cobras, providing air support.
“They’re the eye in the sky, with a human looking through the sensor, talking on the radio, telling the guys on the ground what he’s seeing in real time,” Freeland said. “That’s the ground air integration that makes the Marine Corps such a powerful fighting force.”
At Sweet Water, a KC130 dropped off 36 recon Marines where they seized the airfield, set up a ground refueling point and held security.
“We went up there and made sure everything was safe,” said Lance Cpl. Brady J. Hopper, reconnaissance Marine, 2nd Recon Battalion. “We spotted certain trucks and things that came in and reported it up.”
The cobras soon joined the Marines at Sweet Water, where they were able to fuel up and return to the sky.
“Our movements were quick,” Hopper said. “We were tactical, everybody did pretty well.”
In addition to the refueling at Sweet Water, the Omega Tankers provided refueling mid-mission at more than 17, 000 ft. above sea level. With objectives complete, Marines at both training areas loaded up into their aircrafts and headed back to the desert.
“There were a lot of players, a lot of detailed planning,” Freeland said. “I think the execution was so smooth because we had a lot of professionals involved in it and it worked out very well.”