Friday, September 12, 2008

CG gets bird’s eye view of Harrier operations

AL ASAD, Iraq – As the commanding general of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), Brig. Gen. Randolph G. Alles has visited and flown with every squadron under his command – even those squadrons whose aircraft don’t come with passenger seats.

Through mixed section flights, Alles takes his more than 30 years of experience as an F/A-18 pilot to the air alongside the AV-8B Harriers flown by the “Tomcats” of Marine Attack Squadron 311.

The flights provide the general with an up-close view of day-to-day operations of the squadron while providing the Harrier pilots with a unique opportunity to familiarize themselves with the capabilities of the Marine Corps’ other fixed-wing attack jet.

While Alles can settle into the jump seat of an Osprey, strap into the fuselage of a C-130J or hunker down in a humvee, the only way for him to see VMA-311 in action is from the cockpit of a Hornet.

“I want to see how the squadron operates,” said Alles who has flown several sorties during the past month. “I fly to see how the wing does business.”

The squadron sees the CG’s participation in mixed section flights as evidence of his interest in the squadron and how it fits into the wing’s mission.

“This is a great way for the CG to come down, fly with us and motivate our Marines. It shows that he is interested in our squadron,” said Lt. Col. John H. Cane, commanding officer of the Tomcats.

Capt. Mark Ferguson, a Harrier pilot with VMA-311, flew with Alles during an Aug. 21 over watch mission for ground troops patrolling an al-Anbar city. During the flight, Ferguson and the general served as the ground unit’s eyes in the sky, enhancing their situational awareness.

“Anytime as a community we can learn from each other we benefit by finding better or more efficient ways to do things which ties back to why we’re here – to support the troops on the ground,” said Ferguson.

“The mixed flights show how different platforms from Marine tactical air can work together,” he added.

Another Tomcats pilot who’s flown with Alles, Maj. John D. Ferguson, described the mixed section flights as “positive experiences.”

“It’s like the CO walking through his company spaces,” said Maj. Ferguson. “I think leaders need to know what’s going on in order to make informed decisions. Obviously he has a lot of experience, but it’s that extra piece that you know he’s been out here.”

Alles intends to continue to join Harrier pilots from VMA-311 in close air support missions until the squadron heads back to the states.

1 comment:

David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 09/15/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.