By Lance Cpl. Isabelo Tabanguil, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION KANEOHE BAY, HI --
Sgt. Joseph Latsch and Sgt. Ethan Mintus, unmanned aerial system (UAS) operators with Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 3 (VMU-3), received the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Remote Impact (“R”) Device during a ceremony at Hangar 103, Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Dec. 11, 2017.
The Marines are the first UAS operators in the Marines Corps to receive the “R” Device for providing support during combat operations overseas.
Lt. Col. Kenneth Phelps, the commanding officer of VMU-3, said the two Marines have made history within the UAS community and the Corps.
“This award demonstrates the impact of using a UAS during combat operations from a remote location,” said Phelps. “This is very important to the VMU’s and individuals that fly unmanned aircraft because we’re often supporting missions from afar while still having a significant impact on those operations.”
Mintus, a native of Vienna, Ohio, said they were given an important mission during his deployment.
“We had a couple of weeks of planning on a high value individual (HVI) in the area,” said Mintus. “We were using our aircraft as an indirect fires spotting asset, and during our flight we were coming up on bingo fuel so we had to return to base and go off-station.”
Mintus said the decision was made to prepare another aircraft to provide continuous support during the operation.
“A “Spoke Operation” is to extend from our launch and recovery site,” said Latsch, a native of Allentown, Pa. “Within 48 hours of touching down on the Spoke site we were in support of the joint task force commander from the friendly foreign military forces of the host country.”
Latsch said they provided observation for allied forces during the operation.
“The commander gave us a mission which helped support our allies to engage the enemy with indirect fire assets,” Latsch said. “We were trying to track enemy targets in order to allow allied aircraft to attack targets with more accuracy. During the time I spent in country, the detachment I was part of played a critical role in supporting our allies on the ground during combat operations.”
Phelps said Mintus and Latsch performed exceptionally well during their deployment in support of friendly forces in the field.
“Sgt. Latsch was the first to go down to a Spoke site that enabled us to actually support different islands for the task force commander,” Phelps said. “Sgt. Mintus was prepping another aircraft to launch and relieve himself on-station while still flying a mission for the current aircraft in the air trying to track the enemy. This helped to extend time on-station so there would be no interruption to the support being given to the friendly forces currently engaged with the enemy.”
Phelps said he’s pleased the Marines have played an important role in providing UAS support during operations overseas.
“I think it’s fairly significant these two gentlemen are representative of some of the creative Marines we have in the VMU community,” Phelps said. “I’m extremely proud of everything they’ve done and achieved.”