US Marine Corps, February 13, 2013 - Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C. by Cpl. Scott L. Tomaszycki - Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 467 provided command and control functions as well as strike and escort support during an exercise for various 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing assets Jan. 31.
The exercise was conducted to prepare Marines for the Weapons and Tactics Instructors course, where pilots from every branch of Marine aviation learn how to instruct new pilots in the necessary skills for operating their aircraft in a combat environment. A portion of the training revolves around large-scale combined-arms operations designed to function just like real combat operations with the full range of aviation assets.
During the mission, fixed wing assets and AH-1W Cobras took out enemy anti-aircraft defenses, attacked a large compound housing insurgents and a high-value individual, and escorted CH-53E Super Stallions and MV-22B Ospreys, which dropped off infantry to finish the mission.
Capt. Matthew P. Dineen, an operations officer with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464, coordinated the operation from the back of an HMLA-467 UH-1N Huey. His job was to keep track of the mission
assets and ensure the strike force met every objective.
“It’s a lot easier than you would think because one of the good things about Marine Corps aviation is we do very detailed planning,” Dineen said. “There were people responsible for the scheme of maneuver for the AH-1s as well as the UH-1s. For the CH-53s, there’s the assault flight lead who was in charge of the CH-53s and the MV-22s, so it helps everything work together.”
Dineen said planning for contingencies was part of his main mission so when something happens, like a mass casualty training event, everyone knows their roles and can react quickly and confidently.
“Any time there’s a big mission like that, there needs to be somebody who’s in charge of it overall,” said Capt. Adam W. Trout, the UH-1 flight leadership standardization evaluator program coordinator for 2nd MAW. “Let’s say (Dineen) went to Afghanistan next week, and there’s some big mission and they needed somebody to be up in the aircraft watching to make sure the whole air portion of the mission went off according to plan; he can now do that.”
Squadrons train for missions like this one on a regular basis, but it’s not very often that they get a complete air combat element together. Integrating all Marine aviation assets helps prepare them for the real deal.
“This training was designed to prepare upper-level instructors before they go out to (Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1) in Yuma,” said Trout. “This was designed for them to see a complex objective area with multiple assets and lots of different moving parts. It’s something we try to train to, but we train to it artificially. We had 38 different aviation assets that operated out there today with us. It was a lot more complex than the normal squadron scenarios.”