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Marine Air-Ground team conducts large scale assault, offensive air support operations during Eager Response 16

By Pfc. Nicholas Baird and Cpl. Paul S. Martinez, II Marine Expeditionary Force

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. -- In order to demonstrate the ability to transport, tactically insert, support, and conduct high-intensity, combined-arms operations with a battalion-sized infantry force, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing conducted a large-scale tactical exercise in conjunction with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division at Fort Stewart, Georgia, during Exercise Eager Response, Feb. 24-29.

During the exercise, Marines trained in events including casualty evacuation, assault support missions and aerial refueling, proving the Marine Air-Ground Task Force a highly combat effective force. 

3/6 Marines were transported from Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, in MV-22B Ospreys and CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters to accomplish a long-range insert of a battalion-sized force into the remote training area of the U.S. Army base. 

The exercise allowed cross-training between ground and air units. Where the air units practiced aerial deliveries from a KC-130J, the ground unit focused on receiving the delivery. In the same manner, the ground units focused on proper casualty evacuation procedures that called on Marines to treat a simulated casualty while the air assets worked to hastily transport them aboard a Super Stallion. 

As a continuation of Wing Exercise 15, 2nd MAW continues to train its planners in all aspects of command and control honing its ability to provide outstanding support to the MAGTF.

“This exercise was designed to test the squadron and battalion-level planners in their integration of combined efforts,” said Maj. Gen. Gary L. Thomas, 2nd MAW commanding general. “Our ability to transport, support and tactically insert ground troops in any environment is what makes us a highly effective force.”

“This training reiterates our dedication to supporting the 2nd Marine Division; our dedication to teaching our Marines and enhancing their knowledge; and ultimately, getting it right when it matters, with little to no notice,” Thomas said. 

In addition to being forced to defeat a simulated enemy, Exercise Eager Response prepared Marines for future training requirements, such as weapons and tactics instructor’s course, and future deployment operations. 

“I believe this exercise is a valuable opportunity for our Marines to train in a challenging and dynamic environment, while supporting the Marines with 2nd MARDIV,” said Capt. Sarah K. Horn, a UH-1Y Huey pilot with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 269. “2nd MAW brings a wide range of capabilities to the fight, and any evolution that allows us to hone our skills of supporting Marines on the ground is extremely worthwhile.”

Horn explained that the ability to function as a MAGTF is a powerful capability, unique to the Marine Corps, and it is important that Marines train to employ their forces in such a fashion, and Eager Response allowed the Marines to do exactly that. 

Throughout the exercise, an opposing force lurking in the surrounding tree line sporadically attacked the battalion day and night to put their ability to fortify and defend to the test.

“We took some contact from our opposing force,” said Cpl. Matthew J. Haines, a squad leader with India Company, 3rd Bn., 6th Marines. “They acted as a platoon-sized element that tried to find a weak spot in our defenses and exploit it. We responded by sending security patrols from the various companies.”

“We fight and we train as a MAGTF,” Mahar said. “Our ability to work together with the wing and conduct inserts like we did with more than 400 Marines on multiple aircraft allows us to rapidly build up combat power in any zone and flood our forces in the area to conduct operations. Our ability to do that is what we do as Marines.”

Small-unit leaders regarded the exercise as a valuable opportunity to mold junior Marines into skilled, upstanding members of "Teufelhunden.”

“This is what we do,” Haines said. “It’s about brilliance in the basics, in both offensive and defensive operations. Everything from security to alertness and digging a proper fighting hole is what we want to instill in our Marines. It’s on us as small unit leaders to spin them up on how [3rd Bn., 6th Marines] operates and our expectations of them.” 

At the conclusion of the exercise, the squadron returned to lift the battalion back to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, with their time occupying and defending the area as an entire battalion a success. 

“The MAGTF lives, breaths and reacts exceptionally well in moments of crisis,” Thomas said. “That is because the men and women that encompass it are some of the most dedicated group of Marines and Sailors I have ever seen. I am extremely proud of the work they accomplished here.”
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