Friday, March 21, 2008

3rd MAW assists in IA training

Lance Cpl. Michael Stevens

Al-ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq (March 18, 2008) – As Coalition Forces continue to operate throughout the Iraqi countryside, training the Iraqi Security Forces to stand on their own two feet becomes an increasingly familiar scene.

Third Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) does their own part in the transition process by participating in training operations involving military in transition team Marines and members of the Iraqi Army.

The most recent exercise, involving the Marine Corps tiltrotor aircraft the MV-22 Osprey, was designed to familiarize the Iraqi soldiers with the capabilities of an aviation element.

Several MV-22s, belonging to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263, inserted Marines from Military in Transition Team 0720 and members of the 27th Infantry Brigade, 7th Iraqi Infantry Division to a remote location, where the soldiers were tested on the many skills they’ve been taught.

“I really enjoyed the opportunity to be part of this IA training mission,” said Capt. Jonathan H. Brandt, a pilot with VMM-263. “Training the Iraqi soldiers is something taking place all over the country. This exercise was the most direct opportunity I’ve had to support that mission in Iraq.”
The Coalition’s directive to train the Iraqi Security Forces directly impacts both the ground and aviation combat elements.

“Using the assets the wing provides is very vital because it enables us to get the Iraqi Army on objectives in areas that vehicles would possibly not be able to go,” said Gunnery Sgt. Evan A. Good, the operations and training chief for MiT Team 0720. “Any helo-insert enables more of a surprise effect on the enemy.”

Heliborne operation training will greatly help the Iraqi Army’s ability to conduct these types of missions once coalition forces reduce, explained Good, a State College, Pa., native.

After successfully completing their first heliborne insert, the soldiers pursued their objective by searching the buildings in the area and gathering intelligence on possible enemy activity from the locals.

In support of the ground forces, UH-1N Hueys and AH-1W Super Cobras, belonging to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 773, actively circled overhead, providing perimeter and aerial security throughout the duration of the exercise.

“The aviation combat element exists to support the ground element whether indirectly through routine movement of passengers and cargo around the AO or directly through inserts and extracts such as in this training exercise,” said Brandt, a Lenexa, Kan., native who was one of the MV-22 pilots responsible for inserting the ground units. “If the ground combat elements’ scheme of maneuver makes sense to use aviation assets, our pilots and aircrew are always more than willing to support their mission.”

“The goal is to train Iraqi Army and Police forces to slowly replace the need for our numbers of ground forces, but until they have their own aircraft, the need for air assets to provide support remains,” said Brandt. “We realize that as long as there is a mission to fulfill, we will accept our assignments and continue to support the remaining coalition forces and the increasing number of Iraqi forces as well.”

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