Photo Information

Marines with 1st Marine Division load onto an MV-22B Osprey from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 165, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), for a regimental air assault during exercise Steel Knight aboard Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., Dec. 10, 2019. Steel Knight is an annual exercise that integrates 3rd MAW’s combat power and capabilities with those of 1st Marine Division. This exercise provides the Marines and sailors of 3rd MAW with realistic and relevant training, which enhances their skills, tactics and combat readiness. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Warrant Officer Justin M. Pack)

Photo by Warrant Officer Justin Pack

What it Takes to Move a Mountain: The Regimental Air Assault

18 Dec 2019 | Cpl. Levi Guerra 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

In a magnificent display of combat power, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing demonstrated its ability to lift a regiment of Marines and their equipment over long distances in a very short period of time in Southern California, Dec. 10, 2019.

Muddy and exhausted with dark clouds looming, the Marines trekked across a rain-soaked field, their footprints embedding into the mud with every weighted step. They marched toward the distant sound of rotor blades. U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallions and MV-22B Ospreys with 3rd MAW waited on the horizon, ready to fulfill their role and extract the warriors following a training event that began with inserting Marines from 1st Marine Division. Overhead, two UH-1Y Venoms secured an unseen 3-dimensional perimeter, ready to provide support if needed. This is what a regimental air assault looks like.

“The regimental air assault is part of Steel Knight 20, which is a 1st Marine Division exercise. But of course, as Marines and as Marine Pilots, we are always supporting our brothers and sisters on the ground. We’re involved because the Marine Air Ground Task Force is better when all of its elements are put together.” Col. William J. Bartolomea, the commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd MAW

The regimental air assault used a variety of 3rd MAW Marines and machines and integrated each of their capabilities into an adaptable aviation maneuver, all working in support of the ground combat element.

“I think more than anything else, it provides versatility and flexibility,” said Bartolomea. “The air assault portion provides the ground element the ability to maneuver in three dimensions and bypass enemy strong points to get at enemy weak points. The flexibility and the range of fire power that 3rd MAW and MAG 39 brings in support of 1st Marine Division is critical to make sure they can achieve their objectives.”

The regimental air assault is one of the many exercises 3rd MAW performs in order to provide realistic and relevant training in support of ground operations.

What it Takes to Move a Mountain: The Regimental Air Assault Photo by Warrant Officer Justin Pack

“Training like this is vital to individual and unit readiness,” said Capt. Valerie Smith, a pilot with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465, MAG-16. “Integrating aviation in the same manner that it would be used in a MAGTF gives the Marines the training they need to remain aggressive, prepared and focused on operational excellence.”

This tactic of combining the full power of the Marine Corps’ assets through maneuver warfare focuses on putting the enemy in a lose-lose scenario.

“At the end of the day,” said Bartolomea, “this combined effort puts our enemies in a dilemma that gets our ground combat element to the objective they need, giving us a lethal edge on the battle field.”

The Super Stallions and Ospreys lifted off from the rain-soaked field, their precise and graceful movements a visible testament to the rigorous training required of aircrews. The Marines, loaded in the fuselage, looked back on the landing zone as gusts from the rotors blew away all traces of them ever being there save for the muddied footprints they left behind as a reminder of their presence and the lethal capabilities of the force that moved them.

Air assaults of this magnitude are and will continue to be a vital part of the 3rd MAW’s preparation as they train and focus on naval integration and ship-to-shore transport, connecting the naval force and its warriors. The regimental air assault is but one example of how 3rd MAW supports the Navy-Marine Corps warfighting team.