Events

June 28, 2012

Exercise Burmese Chase

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Story and photos by Lance Cpl. Bill Waterstreet
Desert Warrior Staff
Burmese9
Capt. Doug Webster, the British Royal Artillery 148th Battery, 29th Commando Fire Support Team commander and operations officer and a native of Hampshire, Eng., leads his commandos off a Ch-53 Sea Stallion during Exercise Burmese Chase, on Marine Corps Air Station Yuma’s Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, June 20. The commandos and the Marines of 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, Supporting Arms Liaison Team Charlie then proceeded to practice calling in casualty evacuations with the sea stallions.

As the sun rises over the desert hills of southern Arizona, U.S. Marines and British army commandos can clearly see the similarities between Afghanistan and Yuma.  From the unbearable heat to the uninhabitable terrain, Marine Corps Air Station Yuma’s ranges set the stage for the culmination of this year’s Exercise Burmese Chase.

Burmese Chase, a bilateral training exercise between U.S. and British military forces, is conducted every year to hone the skills of forward observers, and on June 20-22 it culminated in three days of live-fire close air support on simulated hostile forces.

Marines from 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO), Supporting Arms Liaison Team Charlie, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and British Army Commandos of 148th Battery, 29th Commando Fire Support Team, Royal Artillery, trained together on the ranges of MCAS Yuma while being supported by elements from here and Camp Pendleton.

Sgt. Miguel Machado, the 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, Supporting Arms Liaison Team Charlie radio chief and a native of Milwaukee, Wis., inspects solar-powered gear on Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, June 20. This gear was being demonstrated and tested as part of Exercise Burmese Chase.

This training focused on the improvement of both nations’ capabilities to call for fire from supporting arms, especially air assets. During their stint in Yuma, both 1st ANGLICO and the 148th Battery called in dozens of air strikes and casualty evacuations to Marine Aircraft Group 39 assets while Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 provided expeditionary refueling support to keep the helicopters close to operations on the ground.

“This is exactly what we will be doing in Afghanistan,” said Capt. Jesse Rangel, the 1st ANGLICO, SALT C air officer and a Hudsonville, Mich., native. “This encompasses the whole Operation Enduring Freedom scheme of maneuver for ANGLICO teams.”

ANGLICO exists as a go between for joint and international forces to coordinate supporting fires, be it ground artillery, naval artillery or air support. The forward observers of the 148th Battery also coordinate supporting fires for ground forces and often work with international assets. Both units strive to assure forces which haven’t trained together can operate efficiently with each other.

“We’ll be establishing observation posts near villages,” added Rangel. “We’ll be watching Marine infantry, Jordan infantry and British infantry head in and we need to be able to communicate with supporting aircraft with the equipment we have out here. We might have to communicate through a young Marine, British soldier or Afghan National Army soldier out front to provide support.”

Elements of Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 refuel one of Marine Aircraft Group 39’s AH-1W Super Cobras while it takes part in close air support operations in Exercise Burmese Chase on Marine Corps Air Station Yuma’s Barry M. Goldwater Range, June 22. The pilots of MAG-39 were guided in their operations by forward air controllers from British and American units.

“This is an amazing opportunity for us,” said Capt. Doug Webster, the 148th Battery, 29th Commando Fire Support Team commander and operations officer, and a Hampshire, England native. “It’s important because we worked a lot with the Marine Corps in our last deployment in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. All of our boundaries were shared with Marine units. This is a good opportunity to share tactics, techniques and procedures.”

However, this training was only the tail end of Exercise Burmese Chase. The operation started with infantry immersion training, which also incorporated fire support and air asset coordination, then continued with live fire artillery training and counter improvised-explosive-device training.

“Both units duly benefited,” stated Rangel. “We shaped the exercise so it could encompass the needs of everyone.”

Marine Aircraft Group 39, out of Camp Pendleton; Marine Aircraft Group 13, stationed on MCAS Yuma; and the 354th Fighter Squadron, from Oxnard Air Force Base, Calif., engaged in air operations for this exercise. 1st Battalion, 11th Marines provided live fire during operations on Camp Pendleton. While training took place on Yuma’s ranges, Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 operated a forward arming and refueling point as well as engaged in other support roles.

“This is the most important job in wing support,” said Sgt. Eric J. Benenhaley, the MWSS-371 maintenance noncommissioned officer in charge and a native of Sumter, S.C. “They couldn’t do their job if the fuel wasn’t there on the ground for them.”

This bilateral training exercise made use of the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab’s Close Air Support Target Complex, commonly known as “Yodaville.” As the only large-scale urban aviation training range in the Department of Defense, this complex provides a realistic target environment for pilots to improve their precision close air support skills.

While this training evolution took place, other Marines from 1st ANGLICO traveled to Great Britain to engage in similar training.

Sgt. Miguel Machado, the 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, Supporting Arms Liaison Team Charlie radio chief and a native of Milwaukee, Wis., and Sgt. Carmelo Sierra, a 1st ANGLICO, SALT Charlie radio operator and a native of Philadelphia, inspects solar-powered equipment on Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, June 20. This gear was being demonstrated and tested as part of Exercise Burmese Chase.

Marines of 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, Supporting Arms Liaison Team Charlie and British commandos of 148th Battery, 29th Commando Fire Support Team, Royal Artillery, call in close air support as part of Exercise Burmese Chase on Marine Corps Air Station Yuma’s Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, June 20. This portion of the exercise helped forward observers to hone the skills they will use in combat.

Capt. Ryan Mathews, the 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, Supporting Arms Liaison Team Charlie officer in charge and a native of Miami, Fla., calls for close air support during Exercise Burmese Chase, June 22. This was the culminating event of the exercise, involving the employment of ordinance on Marine Corps Air Station Yuma’s Yodaville complex on the Barry M. Goldwater range.

148th Battery, 29th Commando Fire Support Team, British Royal Marines carry in gear to their makeshift base camp in Marine Corps Air Station Yuma’s Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, June 20. The Marines coordinated while calling in casualty evacuations during this exercise. This training was part of Exercise Burmese Chase, which involved Marine Corps units from west coast installations and British Commandos in close air support training.

An AH-1W Super Cobra from Marine Aircraft Group 39 launches a hellfire missile at a target on Marine Corps Air Station Yuma’s Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, June 20. The super cobra conducted close air support during Exercise Burmese Chase along with other MAG-39 and 354th Fighter Squadron aircraft.




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