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Marine Wing Support Squadron-371 Marines, escort role players acting as local nationals during MWSS-371 Mission Rehearsal Exercise aboard at Command Observation Post five aboard the Combat Center, Feb. 17, 2015. MWWS-371 provides aviation-ground support, air crash fire rescue, fuel, and local maintenance and aircraft recovery for wing units they support. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Medina Ayala-Lo/Released)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Medina Ayala-Lo

‘Sand Sharks’ conduct MRX aboard Combat Center

17 Feb 2015 | Lance Cpl. Medina Ayala-Lo Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 conducted a Mission Rehearsal Exercise at Command Observation Post five aboard the Combat Center, Feb. 17, 2015. The unit was evaluated on their level of readiness in preparation for a deployment in support of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Relief Central Command 15-2.

“What’s unique to our mission, as opposed to others, is not only are we conducting security type action, we’re also responsible for aviation-ground support as well as a security force mission,” said Gunnery Sgt. Michael Zunino, air base ground defense staff non-commissioned officer, MWSS 371, native of Oakland, Calif.

MWSS 371 provides aviation-ground support which includes air crash fire rescue, fuel re-supply, local maintenance and aircraft recovery. They are also responsible for providing the wing a place to rest and resupply while overseas. This additional security force mission will help ensure operations aren’t interfered with and that the wing can execute their missions.

“We don’t deploy like a standard battalion would, we deploy in squadrons most of the time,” Zunino said. “The squadron that goes out on the deployment is dependent on what areas are in need of support. The entire squadron is going forward because of this additional security force mission.”

Training for this upcoming deployment began in September. During that time, MWSS 371 was able to practice a number of individual and small unit skill sets to include vehicle check point procedures, detainee procedures and patrolling procedures. Marines also learned how to man an entry control point and the involvement of the role players made the scenarios the Marines were participating in all the more realistic.

“The ECP is really good because Marines have to execute everything that’s expected in country,” Zunino said. “They get to practice their rules of engagement and escalation of force. All the classes they’ve been to and all the training they have received is executed here.”

An added element of support came from the Aviation Ground Support Operation Center which is primarily used for tracking day to day functions of aviation-ground support. During the MRX it was also used as a multipurpose operation center, which allowed a more accurate assessment of the security force’s capabilities in conjunction with Integrated Training Exercise 2-15, which is currently being conducted.

“We are trying to get our watch crew familiar with just how demanding it would be when you have the fog of war and units providing lots of information at once and still having to send that information up to higher,” said Maj. Andrew Kano, executive officer, MWSS 371, native of Las Vegas, Nev. “With the AGSOC, we have the capability to completely monitor 360 degrees around the air field at all times, which is something that we’ll definitely need being charged with the security force mission.”

Throughout the MRX, MWSS 371 was evaluated on their mission readiness. Having the ability to secure a perimeter, deflect a hostile situation and maintain a consistent and accurate line of communication were among the skill sets they were expected to have and carry-out to completion.

“Coming out to ITX is paying off. The Marines are starting to identify what it is we need to work on and doing this in conjunction with everything else, we’re able to see what’s good and what we need to refine,” Zunino said. “We’re on the right course for the deployment and I think after this everyone is confident that it’s going to work out.”

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms