Sunday, March 16, 2008

Invading the skies: 3rd MAW supports ground assault

By Lance Cpl. Michael Stevens

AL-JAZIRAH DESERT, Iraq (March 12, 2008) – Fixed and rotary-wing assets assigned to 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) participated in a simultaneous three-village assault here today.

The assault was conducted to check the villages for enemy activity and bring a coalition presence to an area where operations have been limited.

“This operation was used to send a message to insurgents that there are no safe places to hide and that we will find you and ensure that you have no safe haven,” said Capt. Danny J. Cohlmeyer, a pilot and quality assurance officer with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263.

The Marine Corps tiltrotor aircraft, the MV-22 Osprey, tactically inserted ground forces at each site and extracted them at the conclusion of the operation.

“Our squadron’s job is to provide assault support across a spectrum of expeditionary operations,” said Cohlmeyer. “The assault fell under that category by allowing us to provide support to the ground combat element.”

Assisting the aviation combat element, Marines from 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment and components of Iraqi Security Forces, swept through the objective, looking for weapon caches and insurgents hiding in the villages.

An AH-1W Super Cobra and UH-1N Huey, belonging to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 773, provided the ground forces overhead security throughout the duration of the operation.

“I think we present a more cohesive fire plan when aviation weapons can integrate with ground teams,” said Lt. Col. Russell W. Mantzel, a pilot with HMLA-773. “I think it deters the enemy from fighting because they know we can strike him from different directions with different weapons. They cannot run away from aviation.”

Close-air support keeps pressure on the enemy so Marines on the ground do not have to expose themselves to risky situations, added Mantzel.

“It’s a critical piece of the expeditionary concept and the way the Marine Corps conducts business,” said Cohlmeyer.

By conducting operations such as this one, the Marine Corps continues to be proactive in the search for the enemy.

“The enemy does not, or cannot show their faces now because their numbers are so few,” said Cohlmeyer. “If we cannot find them, then we can find the places that they consider safe and pull those cards from their hands.”

The combined efforts on the ground and in the air proved worthwhile as the operation was successful in bringing a Coalition presence to the area.

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