MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Marine Wing Support Squadron 374 is leading Marine Aircraft Group 13 in new training programs designed to protect expeditionary airfields during the Integrated Training Exercise.
The new training model was made in response to the attack at Forward Operating Base Camp Bastion, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in Sept. 2012 when Taliban forces raided the airfield, killing two Marines and destroying eight aircraft.
The “Air Base Ground Defense” concept forces Marines with the Air Combat Element to provide their own security in and around their airfield. MWSS-374 is applying and expanding on this concept during their iteration of the ITX.
ACE squadrons and support squadrons typically dictate their own ABGD training during an ITX. The squadrons’ ground defenses are usually smaller operations focusing on defending a refueling point or temporary. This scale of ABGD has never been executed during an ITX.
“It was basically squadrons defending their positions,” said Lt. Col. Mike Livingston, commanding officer, MWSS-374. “The old ways of ABGD didn’t take advantage of what ITX is. It is an integrated, training exercise. Integrated training is what this place is about. The Combat Center and ITX are exercising the (Marine Air Ground Task Force); exercising the integration between the (ground combat element), (logistics combat element), and command element.”
Marines with MWSS-374 are being utilized in a manner that they aren’t familiar with. Administration clerks, combat engineers, motor transport operators and others are learning how to be expeditious infantrymen and military police.
“For an impromptu gathering of (military occupational specialties), they are doing extraordinarily well,” said Staff Sgt. Wesley Alexander, staff non-commissioned officer in charge, Combat Engineer Platoon, MWSS-374. “A lot of these Marines have never worked together before, but now they are here with that basic training and will execute a mission that is huge.”
During this new form of ABGD, many of the Marines are out of their comfort zones in the training program. They are no longer strictly executing a task specific to their MOS. Most of the skills they are now using were taught in Marine Combat Training and are now being refreshed. MWSS-374 isn’t doing this without help. Members of 1st Law Enforcement Battalion are helping to teach military police techniques to the squadron.
There is a lot of ground-breaking happening with this new training program. While the concept of ABGD is not new, executing the plan on the Combat Center’s EAF is a first. The air field has been turned into a blank-fire range and remains so throughout the course of this ITX. Operations at the airfield remain the same but with an added security presence to support the exercise.
The MAG and high headquarters want this kind of ABGD training to be standard in future iterations of ITX training according to Livingston. MWSS-374 and MAG-13 are setting the standard for the training of the future. The techniques, tactics and procedures developed in this first phase of the exercise will be evaluated and improved upon for future ITX evolustions.
“Our goal here is to build a plan, execute the plan, and hand it off to the Tactical Training Exercise Control Group for them to distribute to MAGs coming for ITX,” Livingston said. “The uniqueness is that this is being done for the first time and this is the first time that ABGD is an integrated exercise.”
The ABGD’s ITX concept is still in its infancy. Much of the doctrine is still to be evaluated as the ITX continues. MWSS-374 is a little more than half way through their ITX iteration. The squadron’s command is impressed with how their Marines are taking to the training and looking forward to completing their training in ITX.