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MACS-4, JMSDF stick landings in joint training

By Lance Cpl. Carlos Jimenez, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- Marine Air Control Squadron 4 Detachment B conducted a cross-training exercise with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, March 30, 2017.

Marine air traffic controller mobile team members and communications technicians simulated a forward arming and refueling points operation, where they communicated with JMSDF helicopter pilots. 

Together they performed austere landings on a heliport that acted as an expeditionary runway. Marines placed an orange sandbag to mark the landing site then set up radios a safe distance away to guide the JMSDF pilots onto the heliport.

“This is the first time we’ve ever worked with the JMSDF for austere landings,” said U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Jeremy Graves, air traffic control officer at MACS-4 Detachment B. “They’ve been very open to the idea, and they were pretty excited about being able to work with us as well.”

In the past, MACS-4 had to send Marines to Okinawa in order to conduct the exercise but partnering with the JMSDF made it possible to get it done at the station.

“It’s great now that we have the ability to do all the training we need in order to get Marine air traffic controller mobile team members here on station rather than having to send them to other locations to get that training,” said Graves.

The exercise prepares the Marines for real-world scenarios in which they would need to set up austere landing sites in combat zones to allow aircraft to refuel, rearm and get back in the fight.

“When we actually need to do this for combat we could be proficient at our job and be able to do it without flaws,” said U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Daniel McGinness, air traffic controller with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron. 

Overall, the Marines said the exercise was successful. Despite some early technical difficulties, they were able to communicate effectively and direct the helicopter without any substantial incidents.

“What we did today was perfect,” said McGinness. “We ran into some problems with the radios at first, but our guys fixed that and then everything ran smoothly,” 

The exercise’s success opens up future opportunities for MACS-4 to conduct similar training and readiness events with the JMSDF.

“We’re going to continue to press forward and work with them as much as we can,” said Graves. “As long as they continue to work with us it’s going to be a great opportunity for Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and the JMSDF to work hand-in-hand.”

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