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.Â From the unbearable heat to the uninhabitable terrain, Marine Corps Air Station Yumaâ€™s ranges set the stage for the culmination of this yearâ€™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.
This training focused on the improvement of both nationsâ€™ 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.
â€œThis is exactly what we will be doing in Afghanistan,â€ said Capt. Jesse Rangel, the 1st ANGLICO, SALT C air officer and a Hudsonville, Mich., native. â€œThis encompasses the whole Operation Enduring Freedom scheme of maneuver for ANGLICO teams.â€
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 havenâ€™t trained together can operate efficiently with each other.
â€œWeâ€™ll be establishing observation posts near villages,â€ added Rangel. â€œWeâ€™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.â€
â€œThis is an amazing opportunity for us,â€ said Capt. Doug Webster, the 148th Battery, 29th Commando Fire Support Team commander and operations officer, and a Hampshire, England native. â€œItâ€™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.â€
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.
â€œBoth units duly benefited,â€ stated Rangel. â€œWe shaped the exercise so it could encompass the needs of everyone.â€
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 Yumaâ€™s ranges, Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 operated a forward arming and refueling point as well as engaged in other support roles.
â€œThis is the most important job in wing support,â€ said Sgt. Eric J. Benenhaley, the MWSS-371 maintenance noncommissioned officer in charge and a native of Sumter, S.C. â€œThey couldnâ€™t do their job if the fuel wasnâ€™t there on the ground for them.â€
This bilateral training exercise made use of the Marine Corps Warfighting Labâ€™s Close Air Support Target Complex, commonly known as â€œYodaville.â€ 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.