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The pilot’s training in the fleet is continuous. They are required to meet annual minimums, which are usually broken down into monthly and weekly, to keep up their training.

Photo by Cpl. Ali Azimi

New element in combat training

7 Jun 2013 | Cpl. Ali Azimi

Marines with Marine Aircraft Group 11 spent the last month working from the Air Combat Element Compound at the Combat Center’s Camp Wilson to provide support for multiple air wings units undergoing Integrated Training Exercise 3-13.

Since their arrival at the Combat Center in early May, MAG-11 has provided support for Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462, Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369 and Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314. The exercise provided a vigorous training opportunity and updated approach to aviation ITX training.

In past exercises, Tactical Training Exercise Control Group acted as a notional higher headquarters for the squadrons. MAG-11 played this role directly.

This arrangement provided better training for both the MAG 11 Marines as well as the squadrons, said Maj. Mark Bortnem, operations officer, MAG 11. All of the ACE units received some extra training at the same level of skill as they would deployed.

The MAG-11 Marines operated out of the ACE Compound as they would while in-country. Working from tents at  the combat operations center, they briefed pilots before and after flights to provide and gather the latest intelligence. They also monitored the aircraft and communications with TTECG, which allowed them to support the pilots with real-time adjustments to tactics, as it would be done in the constantly changing battlefield.

They scheduled the battle rhythm - the daily assigned missions, the support functions, the intelligence picture and managed the pace of operations.

Their ability to monitor and calculate the weather conditions of the harsh Twentynine Palms desert environment also became an invaluable factor to pilots.

“We canceled some flight due to visibility,” said Capt. Mike Harper, UH-1Y Huey pilot, HMLA-369. “It was disappointing to the ground guys because if you look straight up you can see blue sky but you couldn’t see in the Hueys.”

It is unclear if this will become a permanent part of the predeployment training exercises. However the addition of the command control element at ACE compound for ITX 3-13 sets precedence for future aviation-based training operations at the Combat Center.

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms