Photo Information

U.S. Marine Sgt. Juan Cerna, an explosive ordnance disposal technician with Marine Wing Support Squadron 372, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command, changes the batteries in a Talon Mark II robot at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Feb. 20, 2016. The EOD technicians are present to provide the base and airfield with the ability to handle unexploded ordnance, hung ordnance, or suspicious packages.

Photo by Sgt. Owen Kimbrel

MWSS-372: Support within striking distance

10 Mar 2016 | Sgt. Owen Kimbrel 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade

With the continuing conflict against ISIL still waging on and the daily routine of coalition airstrikes prominent in the effort, it is easy to overlook the certifications required before a single aircraft departs. These certifications are completed by the Marines and sailors with Marine Wing Support Squadron 372, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command, which is a main force provider for Marine Corps airfield support operations in the U.S. Central Command area of operation. 

The squadron’s capabilities are key components in furthering the reach of coalition aircraft in theater. 

MWSS-372 provides all essential aviation ground support requirements to a designated component of the aviation combat element (ACE). When tasked with operating an airfield, the squadron must conduct all aviation and ground refueling, aircraft rescue and firefighting, expeditionary airfield services, explosive ordnance disposal, essential engineer services, field messing facilities, internal airfield communications, individual and unit training, motor transport support, nuclear, chemical and biological defense capabilities, routine and emergency medical services, airfield security, and billeting for personnel. The squadron is ultimately the enabling unit for the employment of Marine aviation.

“The squadron enables the SPMAGTF, with a large aviation combat element, to operate on a daily basis in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. In most cases, we provide the ‘behind the curtain’ type of support,” said Lt. Col. Aaron Angell, MWSS-372 commanding officer. “If you didn’t have those airfield services, then you couldn’t operate.”

Comprising of 72 different military occupational specialties, the squadron is essentially a ‘jack of all trades’ when it comes to airfield support, allowing the SPMAGTF-CR-CC to expand its operational reach.

The ability to extend an aircraft’s operational employment area is of great value when airstrikes are a critical method of engaging an enemy. MWSS-372 does this through the ability to establish Forward Arming and Refueling Points and expeditionary airfields. 

“We have the ability to take a stretch of land that is completely barren and setup an expeditionary airfield for our aircraft,” said Master Sgt. Blair Clark, the MWSS-372 operations chief. “We are able to do this by having a detailed analysis on potential forward sites and then we go into the area and setup the aviation support services required for the specific mission.”

This capability is a vital resource to commanders in a battlespace, which extends throughout multiple countries.

“We have been able to project our capability sets throughout the whole battlespace,” added Clark. 

This support has added up over the past months—totaling more than 2.3 million gallons of aviation and ground fuel dispensed, more than 21,000 pieces of ordnance transported, more than 87,000 hours of professional military education conducted, and more than 1.2 million pounds of cargo transported throughout the area of operations. Additionally, the unit’s integration with host nations, adjacent elements and coalition partners has reinforced how significant it is to SPMAGTF-CR-CC’s mission of increasing interoperability throughout the region.

The squadron is scheduled to return home early this year, and the next rotation of support squadron Marines and Sailors will have to hit the ground running in order to match this operational tempo.

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