Birds of steel bring air support to CAX

8 Sep 2000 | Cpl. Zachery Crawford

The platoon had been hammering the enemy continuously with mortars and small arms fire for the past two hours. As the troops held the enemy at bay, they could clearly see the bright impacts of 500-pound bombs on the enemy objective. This was before they heard the eardrum-shattering howl of F-18s as they flew close overhead.

In battle, the air combat units play a vital role in the operations. During combined arms exercises, they are one of the most important elements of training.

With Marines from Marine Air Groups 31, 29 and 14, the air combat element at CAX uses various units and squadrons from all over the Marine Corps map. Units participating include ones from the air stations in New River and Cherry Point, N.C., and Beaufort, S.C. This includes support from such units as Marine Air Logistic Squadron 31, Marine Air Control Group 28, Marine Wing Support Squadron 273 and Marine Tactical Air Command Squadron 28.

'Our job in the MTACS is to keep track of the air and ground assets for the MAGTF (Marine Air Ground Task Force)," said Cherry Point's Cpl. Brendan J. Gerardo, an air support operations operator for MTACS. "We are basically the coordinators of the scheme of maneuver for the MAGTF." 

The squadrons involved in the actual in-flight training scenarios of CAX 9 include Light Attack Helicopter Squadron-269, Medium Marine Helicopter Squadron-365 and Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron-464. VMFA-115 has also played an important role.

"We are here primarily to provide close air support for the Marine Air Ground Task Force?s ground units," said CAX Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Alan R. Lewis, who is also the executive officer for MAG 31. "The ACE is designed to put aircraft in the right place and in the war-fighting scheme according to the commander's intent."

The training evolutions for the ACE are designed to give air support to ground units by using aircraft for various missions. The helicopters will be used for attacks, troop insertion and extraction and medical evacuations. Fixed wing aircraft will be used to supply ground elements with close air support, intelligence and imagery.

"CAX is a good chance for us to work in these types of conditions where hot weather and harsh terrain is involved," said New River's Pfc. Bradley J. Ross, a flight-line mechanic with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron-269. "We have enough time out here to train more than we normally would."

The ACE will be used to its fullest extent throughout the CAX evolutions to include the final exercise held at the end of each CAX and training missions prior to them.