More than two dozen light armored reconnaissance vehicles, equipment and personnel were transported by the 1st Light Armor Reconnaissance Battalion from Camp Pendleton, California, to launch a training operation at March Air Reserve Base, July 21.
This exercise allowed the 1st LAR the ability to apply capabilities and core mission essential tasks learned at their home station in an air mobility environment.
“We are conducting this training operation to demonstrate our air mobility and logistics capability in the event of contingency operations when called upon,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Phil Bemis, 1st LAR operations chief. “We focus on reconnaissance, economy of force operations, limited offensive operations and other taskings, as directed by our higher headquarters, in support of the Marine Air Ground Task Force commander.”
Vehicles were pre-staged at March Field to undergo a thorough inspection by the Joint Inspection team assigned to the 452nd Aerial Port Support Flight.
“The JI’s follow a checklist that guides them through the inspection process,” said Staff Sgt. Ernesto Jimenez, 452 APSF joint inspector. “The weights have to be accurate, hazardous materials have to be declared and prepared, according to Air Force Manual 24-204 (Preparing Hazardous Materials for Military Air Shipments), which is the Bible that explains how to package and ship hazardous material on airlift missions.”
It is Jimenez’s job to check and make sure the documents are 100 percent accurate, he said.
“We look at the departure, destination, and the Transportation Control Number; all three have to be correct. If not, I let a hazmat preparer at their unit know and they will generate a new copy with the changes on it. We give them the OK and proceed to load the equipment on the aircraft.”
Jimenez and his fellow Airmen work together to accomplish all tasks required.
“We have 12 personnel on the team to perform aircraft loading, cargo processing, hazardous material inspecting, load planners, as well as passenger services,” Jimenez said.
On July 24, the loaders began loading the LAVs on C-17 aircraft, three to four vehicles per flight on seven flights.
“The loading is performed by a five-person, ramp-services team,” said Jimenez. “They receive a load plan displaying the layout of the aircraft and adjust the weight according to equipment. Each vehicle weighs approximately thirty-two thousand pounds.”
The first flights departed from March for Barstow’s Daggett Airfield, before being driven to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. All the vehicles were airlifted and the mission completed by July 25.
“Our goal is to work together with the 1st LAR to make a seamless transition in and out of March,” said Jimenez. “A lot of this training is essential for worldwide mobility. It’s a learning curve for everyone- we have to give the Marines a few pointers, and correct some paper work, which is standard with a JI.”
Their vehicles are fully capable to deploy with a variety of air assets. They try to demonstrate their long range capabilities, which gives both the Marines and higher headquarters the confidence to practice any contingency that may arise, Bemis said.
“The 1st LAR performed this training mission as a dry run in 2012, and with 13 LAVS from Miramar Air Station to Camp Pendleton in 2013,” Bemis said. “We did a JI last year from Miramar AS to Camp Pendleton using the same process, but this year it’s more organized. They have a better idea of what we’re looking for, and we understand how the Marines work so it goes quicker now, which is our goal,” Bemis added.
Ground movement to the NTC began July 27 just in time for the training to start July 28. The 1st LAR will complete their NTC training on August 10, and then repeat the transport of the equipment and personnel back through March ARB, before arriving back at Camp Pendleton.
“We need to make sure everything is correct, and get everything bridged together, so we can deploy them quicker for worldwide missions, or whatever they need us for,” said Jimenez.