March 29, 2012

Yuma squadron supports NATO forces in CONUS

Lance Cpl. Sean Dennison
Photos by Airman 1st Class Heather Hayward

Approximately 60 Marines returned from supporting a joint-service international exercise at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho, March 20.

Marines with Marine Attack Squadron 513 integrated with service members from around the world during Exercise Mountain Roundup.

The exercise saw various NATO forces training with their American counterparts, focusing mainly on training up components of the German Air Force as per their predeployment workups.

“It’s like their deployment version of the Weapons and Tactics Instructor course,” said Capt. Paul Truog, a VMA-513 AV-8B Harrier pilot and a native of Yorkville, Ill, referring to Yuma’s biannual large-scale event that integrates air and ground forces within the Marine Corps and without.

VMA-513 provided a myriad of aviation support, including strike coordinated aerial reconnaissance, where pilots seek out a target, aerial interdiction, where the pilots already know what they’re going to hit.

The exercise also served as cold weather training.

“There was ice on the deck, and we had to deice the canopies,” said Sgt. Angel Ceniceros, a VMA-513 powerline mechanic and a native of San Jose, Calif.”

The detachment is notable as it marked the first time the squadron supported NATO forces since their deployment to Afghanistan in 2011. For some of the newer Marines, this was their first time seeing how aviation combat factors into international training.

“I wanted to serve my country,” said Lance Cpl. Kevin Taff, a VMA-513 airframe mechanic and a native of Bellingham, Wash. “It was motivating knowing we were helping another country with their training efforts.”

“The experience of flying with Marines who have previously supported NATO operations was extremely rewarding,” added Capt. Zachary Hartnett, one of the newer pilots in the squadron’s roster and a native of San Diego, Calif. “Flying with these veteran pilots translated all that I’ve learned into real world application. These Marines have the experience of dealing with international relations in a way that can only be learned through experience, an experience that I was very lucky to begin to be a part of.”

It’s testament to the abilities of the Marines who supported their allies while the station celebrated the centennial of Marine Corps aviation during the 50th annual air show, March 17.

“This training allowed us to not only see how NATO forces operate but also allowed us to coordinate aviation support with a large force employment to prepare against future threats,” said Truog.

“Air combat has evolved to the point where multi-nation integration is the standard,” added Hartnett. “With this multi-force projection comes detailed multi-force integration. This detailed integration requires an abundance of planning and practice. By performing large force exercises with international allies we are afforded the opportunity to develop our integration skills.”

Mountain Roundup first kicked off in 2005. Since then, it has been a mainstay in the Germans’ aviation training curriculum, as well as an integral component in the U.S. Armed Force’s operational capabilities.

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