TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- When a Marine officer decides to become a pilot, he simply isn't strapped into the cockpit and given a multitude of bombs, which he discharges at will. He goes through a series of rigorous schools, where he endures intense training.
After school, the pilots must continue to train, honing their skills behind the stick. Training is the key to developing superior performance. The Marines currently participating in Combined Arms Exercise 10-02 have used their time to work through any possible kinks that they could face in a real world situation. The pilots racked up numerous flight hours, perfecting their flight proficiency.
"The pilots' confidence is through the roof," Gunnery Sgt. James P. Welsh, VMA-542 ordnance chief praised. "They're taking 10 paks (five bombs per wing) out there. We couldn't ask for a better training environment."
During CAX the pilots are flying missions while infantry personnel on the ground below eradicate their own enemy targets.
Harrier pilot, Capt. Craig Palmer said he enjoys the combined arms environment because it prepares him for real world situations where he would drop bombs near 'friendlies."
The Cincinnati, first time CAX participant, said this has been a good learning experience. He said he has learned more about his plane and how to maneuver it in different weather conditions.
"Out here you have to fight the cross wind limitations and that, combined with the heat, affects our vertical landings," Palmer said.
The CAX setting has helped train the pilots and the ordnance technicians who load the bombs.
Welsh, a Columbia, Pa., native said his Marines are using a lot more live ordnance during CAX. He said this is one of the few times he gets to train the young Marines with real weapons.
"At the end of CAX, they will be ready for any obstacle put in their way," Welsh said. "Ready for any real world situation."
The Marines are using their time in the Mojave Desert to better themselves. They are getting better at their job and building closer relationships within the squadron.
Lance Cpl. Davon G. Dailey, an Albany, Ga., ordnance technician said he really enjoys his job.
"It's the best job in the Marine Corps - one of the most exciting," he said. "I like hooking the bombs up. Plus the shop unity is great."
After extensive desert training, the Carolina-based Marines prepare to repack their gear and return to their home hangar, letting their jets cool for a while. The Marine and Sailor team will complete CAX 10 and begin returning home next week.