US Marine Corps, March 05, 2014 - MORÓN AIR BASE, Spain by Capt David David, Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response - As part of a larger effort to increase international cooperation, U.S. Marines with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response conducted a bilateral carrier qualification with their Spanish counterparts from Maneuver Helicopter Battalion #4 (BHELMA IV) aboard USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44), Feb. 25, 2014.
The carrier qualification gave the pilots from SP-MAGTF Crisis Response and BHELMA IV a dedicated opportunity to practice fundamental skills associated with operating carrier-based aircraft and demonstrate acceptable levels of proficiency.
Positioned out of Morón Air Base, Spain, the approximately 500 personnel of SP-MAGTF CR come from various elements of the Marine Corps: aviation, ground combat arms, and logistics. As a part of their mission, SP-MAGTF CR conducts military-to-military training with African and European nations.
“We did this to expand our bilateral comfort zone,” said Capt. Matthew “Hayseed” Hayden, a pilot training officer with SP-MAGTF CR and action officer for the carrier qualification. “With the conduct of bilateral training, we better ourselves at working with a host nation and expose the Spanish to working with U.S. Navy ships.”
Landing MV-22 Ospreys on carriers and working with foreign or host nation partners is regular work for the Marines and sailors of SP-MAGTF CR. The Marines created the unit as part of the Department of Defense’s continuing effort to improve its crisis response capability around the globe.
SP-MAGTF CR is a self-deployable and highly mobile force designed to respond to missions such as U.S. embassy reinforcement, humanitarian assistance, disaster response, theater security cooperation, and other missions in the U.S. Africa Command and U.S. European Command areas of responsibility.
“Maintaining various skills and proficiency allows us to react to the demands of a crisis response environment,” said Hayden. “This provides us with the flexibility to know that if we need to land on a carrier in the Mediterranean or off the coast of Africa, we have the ability to meet that mission.”
Various aircraft were used during the training. The Marines flew the MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, while BHELMA IV flew both the H-47 Chinook and the AS532 Cougar helicopters. During the carrier qualification, take-off and landing were performed in mixed sections, meaning that American and Spanish aircraft were paired together for alternating landings.
“Due to the amount of space available, we worked with the Spanish to do alternate landings,” said Hayden. “The MV-22 took the first landing, and we were followed by the Chinook. The next section repeated that with the Cougar.”
Partnership with the Spanish pilots also expanded the Marines’ capabilities in the air.
“There wasn’t much of a language barrier, since the Spanish pilots were fairly fluent in English,” said Hayden. “It actually made it easier to operate in Spanish airspace having their pilots in the air with us. They were able to do a lot of things for us that kept things going smooth.”
Hayden explained that the smooth execution of the carrier qualification was attributable to two factors: preparation and professionalism.
“We conducted risk mitigation and flight briefs prior to the exercise with both Spanish and U.S. pilots,” said Hayden. “After all of the planning, it was smooth execution. We used a crawl, walk, run approach and there were no hiccups. The Spanish pilots were very competent and professional.”