By 2nd Lt. Melissa Heisterberg, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- Two F/A-18D Hornets, attached to the ‘Bats’ of Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242, and one AV-8B Harrier, attached to the ‘Black Sheep’ of Marine Attack Squadron 214, enhanced their interoperability with U.S. Navy destroyers in the Sea of Japan May 24, 2016.
The training iteration demonstrated the Navy destroyers’ ability to work fluently with non-organic Marine Corps fixed-wing aircraft such as the F/A-18D Hornet and the AV-8B Harrier.
The Navy’s Pacific Surface Action Group consists of Destroyer Squadron 31 (CDS-31) and guided-missile destroyers USS Spruance (DDG 111), USS Decatur (DDG 73) and USS Momsen (DDG 92). Additionally, ‘Devil Fish’ and ‘Warbirds’ are rotary-wing aircraft detachments of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 49. With the exception of USS Spruance and ‘Devil Fish,’ who were involved in a separate mission at the time, all of the Pacific Surface Action Group’s assets played an integral role in the training iteration.
“As services continue to work jointly, it sends the message that all services can work together under one unified, joint command,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jonathan R. Pohnel, joint-integration officer at Destroyer Squadron 31. “These training iterations can point out deficiencies in our communications, which will allow us to make recommendations to our chain of command to remedy such issues.”
It is important the Navy and Marine Corps work together seamlessly in order to respond to real-world threats or humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions. Senior leaders within the two services have been encouraging joint-interoperability training iterations because standardization and using a common language are vital contributors to the effectiveness of joint operations.
“This was the first time the destroyers have been able to work with the Harrier and Hornets together,” said Capt. Aaron P. Brunner, AV-8B Harrier pilot with VMA 214. “It was beneficial to be able to talk to the different controllers and see how the Navy communicates with the aircraft. We were able to identify any shortcomings that may arise if we were to conduct this in a real-life scenario.”
According to Pohnel, this was one of the first joint-interoperability training iterations for the U.S. 3rd Fleet operating within the U.S. 7th Fleet’s area of responsibility. Small force training events give unit-level commanders the opportunity to conduct joint-service training at the tactical level.
The joint-interoperability training iteration, which was conducted at the tactical level, demonstrated the Navy destroyers’ and the Marine Corps aircrafts’ ability to be flexible with mission air and tactical air support within the air defense arena. It proved that adaptability and flexibility will strengthen the U.S. military forces.
“If integration continues to go smoothly then we will consider it a success,” said Pohnel. “We are looking at ways to incorporate UH-1 Hueys and MV-22 Ospreys into future training iterations so that we can further enhance small