Many say experience is what builds the type of seasoned Marines today’s Corps demands.
“Prepared In Peace and War” is the motto Marines held true to during Exercise Pacific Titan, held at Red Beach in Camp Pendleton, Calif., Sept. 9-14.
This deployment-for-training exercise marked the first time Marine Aircraft Group 13 used Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 assets since the squadron joined the MAG’s command in July 2012.
“We wanted to pick up out of Yuma, out of the normal operating procedures, and get us in a different operating environment,” said Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Archambault, the MAG-13 sergeant major and a native of Banning, Calif. “It’s one thing to set all of our gear up where we’re use to it; it’s a whole other thing to bring it out here and actually operate landing aircrafts.”
Red Beach served as an optimal staging ground to train for command and control of aviation operations due to its location near the Pacific Ocean. The shore-based expeditionary site provided enough turf to set up a fully functioning Combat Operations Center while also providing a vertical take-off and landing pad for Yuma’s AV-8B Harrier exercises.
For MWSS-371, Pacific Titan was an opportunity to showcase its various mission-essential capabilities to the MAG. From the initial stages of setting up the locale to building a secure COC, and the logistics in between, the Sandsharks demonstrated their solid professionalism and on-site proficiency.
“MWSS-371 provided the airfield operations portion – Fuel, Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighters, in case things go wrong,” said 1st Lt. Steven Richardson, MWSS-371’s Mission Commander for Pacific Titan and a native of Chicago. “We also provided engineering, like tactical power, water purification straight from the ocean by the utilities Marines, the ability to move things with heavy equipment and motor-t (Transportation) to transport the logistical supporting elements, including communications and field mess Marines to provide chow.”
Supplementary support also came from Marine Wing Communication Squadron 38, based out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif. Working alongside MWSS-371’s section, MWCS-38 provided a Support Wide Area Network (SWAN) satellite communication system that fed wireless lines of connection throughout the camp.
“We are providing a digital backbone in support of MWSS-371 and MAG-13 HQ,” said Cpl. James Burly, a MWCS-38 Data Systems Network Specialist and a native of Baltimore. “It’s a sustained and secure means of communication between units through the training exercise.”
Firewalls were also put in place to prevent cyber attacks and hackers from disrupting any sensitive information that might compromise what MAG-13’s intelligence specialists were working on with the Harriers.
Meanwhile, Marine Air Control Squadron 1 Detachment Alpha, a MACS-1 subordinate unit from Camp Pendleton, set up mobile weather sensors for the Harriers to conduct safe refueling, take-off and landing exercises.
“What we gauge is visibility, sky conditions, how high the clouds are, winds, humidity and pressures. We support the ATC (Air Traffic Controllers) and the pilots that are flying in with current weather observations once an hour,” said Staff Sgt. James Scott, a MACS-1 Detachment Alpha meteorological and oceanographic forecaster and a native of Dallas. “It gives us a lot of practice to come out here, set this up and use the equipment in a real field weather environment.”
Marine Attack Squadron 513, VMA- 214, and VMA-311 provided Pacific Titan with the jets, pilots, plane captains and ordnance technicians needed for the aviation operations.
Once grounded, Harrier refueling procedures were handled by MWSS-371 bulk fuel specialists.
“The refueling process works by having a 600 GPM (Gallons Per Minute) pump pulling the fuel from the truck, running through a 600 GPM filter separator to a 2 inch meter and right to the Harrier,” said Sgt. William J. Scott, a MWSS-371 bulk fuel specialist and a native of Long Island, N.Y. “The process takes anywhere from three to 10 minutes, depending on how much fuel the bird needs.”
The exercise had many moving parts, but wasn’t without the hands-on tactical ground combat training Marines are known for.
The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program was available on a daily basis for those able to participate. Thanks to the Camp Pendleton Helicopter Rope Suspension Training Master school instructors, MAG-13 Marines were also able to get some rappelling and spy-rigging training in.
Professional development classes, headed by senior leadership, provided junior Marines an opportunity to learn how to better develop their future in the Marine Corps. A class on Marine Security Guard duty also opened some eyes to additional possibilities available within the Corps.
The culminating ground combat training event for Pacific Titan involved a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear endurance course. Pacific Titan Marines ran a mile to different stations which tested their dexterity and teamwork while donning Mission-Oriented Protective Posture gear. Under the supervision of CBRN Defense Specialists, CS gas was released into the air near the end of the successful exercise.
“We’re instructors, we’re teachers,” said Cpl. Thomas Mango, a MAG-13 CBRN Defense Specialist and a native of Concord, NH. “Our goal is that these Marines take something away from our training. Even if it’s not chemically related, as long as they take some positive lessons with them.”
From dealing with a simulated enemy to making sure refueling and ordnance exercises were executed, Pacific Titan had a lot of units operating simultaneously. Midway through the exercise, Marines received a visit from Brig. Gen. Steven Busby, the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing commanding general. The stopover had Busby visiting units throughout Red Beach, raising morale and touching base with both junior and senior Marines.
“You’re seeing a good portion of what the wing brings to the MAGTF (Marine Air-Ground Task Force) done at the same time,” said Richardson. “As our higher headquarters and our squadron work together, we’ll perfect our SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) and how we work with each other and we’ll become an extremely proficient wing asset.”
Sharing knowledge, unit familiarization, and valuable experience were the running themes of Pacific Titan. The training gave Marines a better appreciation for and understanding of aviation and ground squadron’s capabilities for what may lie on the future horizon.