YUMA, Arizona -- Marine Wing Support Squadrons 371 and 274 supported Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 by building a runway for VMU-1’s first flight of their RQ-7B Version 2 Shadow, an unmanned aerial system, at the Cannon Air Defense Complex in Yuma, Arizona, March 26.
In January, VMU-1 Marines began moving from Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, to the Cannon Air Defense Complex with Marine Aircraft Group 13, where they have access to the aerial support they need to continue operations.
“We’re setting up an expeditionary airfield, [or] a tactical landing zone,” said Maj. Peter Ban, VMU-1 executive officer. “It entails the runway and all the facilities that include the maintenance space.”
The Marines with MWSS-371 and 274 were called before the move to start planning the runway by filing dig permits and conducting environmental surveys.
“We started the process in early October 2015,” said Capt. Peter Ciaston, MWSS-371 engineer operations company commander. “We had to clear out at least eight acres worth of shrubs. In January, we started leveling, compacting and laying the material down.”
The squadrons move to Yuma ultimately provides them the ability to perform daily flight operations out of the Cannon Air Defense Complex to better utilize the Shadow’s capabilities, according to Ban.
Relocation to Yuma further benefits the squadron because they have the abilities to work with other units and access to the air station resources, according to Cpl. Isaias Favela, VMU-1 collateral duty inspector.
The UAS provides communication and surveillance capabilities but, according to Ban, it has the potential to be an even greater asset to the Marine Corps.
“We’re not just an eye in the sky that’s able to provide an overwatch for a ground unit,” said Ban. “For example, we can guide laser-guided bombs or missiles onto a target if necessary. We can have communication-relay capabilities so that a [combat operations center] can talk to their forward elements, so there are multiple capabilities. That’s essentially what we bring, greater ability to command and control units and to attack the enemy.”
The squadrons’ collaboration and team work led to the successful first flight of the Shadow out of the Cannon Air Defense Complex in Yuma, March 26.
“The fact that this compound was built, and we’ve got this runway, [it] took coordination from Headquarters Marine Corps all the way down to the squadron, then across to the other units,” said Ban. “[As Marines] we accomplish the mission no matter what.”