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Air, ground Marines prepare to deploy, conduct MAGTF integration training

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Story by Sgt Lillian Stephens on 10/07/2016
Marines with Company B, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, Marine Wing Support Squadron (MWSS) 372, 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO) and Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 369 conducted fast-rope training aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Oct. 3.

During the training, reconnaissance Marines slid down a rope attached to a UH-1Y Huey while it hovered approximately 20 feet above the ground. This training was one portion of a larger training evolution called a Marine Air-Ground Task Force integration exercise.

This exercise allowed air and ground units to train together to strengthen their proficiency in various skill sets such as insertion and extraction techniques, casualty evacuation, tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel (TRAP), and ground reconnaissance and surveillance.

"This training is always important but for it to happen right now is really where we're making our money," said Capt. Eric Vanhorn, a fire power control team leader with 1st ANGLICO and a Rio Rancho, New Mexico, native. "We're just under a year out from actually deploying."

The units that participated in this exercise will also deploy together as part of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit in 2017.

A MAGTF is a self-sustaining group of Marines, equipment and supplies that have the ability to travel and provide immediate support within a given area. To operate effectively, the command element, ground combat element, aviation combat element and combat service support element must work cooperatively.

"The end state is to have a closer integration between the MAGTF," said Col. Michael, Borgschulte, commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 39. "In particular with the aviation combat element and the ground combat element."

According to Capt. Francisco Garza, platoon commander of 1st Recon. Bn., and a Houston native, air support often enables reconnaissance Marines to insert into an area in which traditional methods of transport, such as ground vehicles or aircraft landings, are not viable options.

"It's a given of the Marine Corps' mission to be an expeditionary Naval force in readiness and to respond to any type of situation," said Garza. "Air support is absolutely pivotal to any type of our special insertion and extraction. So we work very closely with the wing, whether that be C-130s, Hueys, CH-53s or [MV-22B] Ospreys. All of these aircraft are absolutely pivotal for getting us into the [area of operations]."

Marines completed missions at Camp Pendleton, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms and San Clemente Island, and while many of the Marines involved have deployment experience, this training aids new Marines who are less familiar with the missions and necessary skill sets.

"When we go to support the ground troops, you don't want it to be the first time [you] actually have to go do it," said 1st Lt. David Hunter, a Huey pilot with HMLA-369, and a Compton, California, native. "The strength of this is it gets us to the point that [ground units] get used to working with air support It just gives them proficiency [and] we know exactly what their scheme of maneuver is and how they're going to react to situations."

The MAGTF integration exercise began Sept. 26 and ended Oct. 6.

"The whole idea behind us being here is the earlier we can get in with these guys [and] learn each other's names, learn each other's spaces [and] how the chain of command works between our different communities [it] will help us get things done more quickly and efficiently," said Vahorn. "That's really the end state: to quickly and efficiently work together when we actually deploy."


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