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MWSS-272 goes for a ride

By Pfc. Robert L. Botkin | | June 24, 2005

Visiting Marines and sailors worked late June 24, ending nearly a month of training with the integrated exercise that wrapped up Exercise Desert Talon.

Marine Wing Support Squadron-272 from Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., was one of the units preparing for upcoming deployments to Iraq.

MWSS-272's mission during the integrated exercise was to coordinate an early-evening helicopter insertion of one of their explosive ordnance disposal teams. The EOD team was heading out with no notice to set up an improvised explosive device cordon around an IED found by a ground  unit's convoy. The team's job was to disarm or remove the device.

This exercise was set up to be as close to a real situation as possible, with a fast response to a convoy with whom MWSS-272 had no previous working relationship, and with other friendly forces operating in the same area.

One element different from the drills the squadron usually engages in was that it sent out two teams to work independently, where normally one team would be sent to augment the convoy's perimeter. Sending two teams enabled the convoy to leave when, or even before, the team arrived.

The MWSS-272 Marines left the air station traveling lighter than usual aboard two CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron-466 of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.

"We don't get to go in helicopters every day," said Sgt. Nicholas R. Killen, a combat engineer and Kingman, Ariz., native assigned to MWSS-272. "It kind of makes us stretch our resources. We're not going to be able to carry as much gear with us, especially the heavy guns and lots of the other hand tools we (usually) take with us."

Normally the squadron would be inserted by ground vehicles with full gear and crew-served weapons, but the shortage of space forced them to take only their own rifles and the gear they could fit on their load bearing vests.

After setting up a perimeter, the Marines faced a simulated mortar attack that left them without Killen, who, having been deployed already, is looked to for leadership in the field.

When asked by Lt. Cmdr. Nicole Olekoski of Albany, N.Y., flight surgeon for Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron-1 and an observer/controller for the exercise, what his fellow Marines would do without him, Killen responded, "They'll figure out something, ma'am, they're Marines."

And they did  coping with the limited gear, heat they were not used to, simulated Iraqi nationals in the area and the wounded sergeant   providing security for their EOD team as they made their way to the IED.

After neutralizing the IED threat, the MWSS-272 teams called for extraction by two more CH-53E helicopters and then transferred to two Marine Corps 7-ton trucks for transport to the Cannon Air Defense Complex, where they were debriefed.

This was the final stage of more than five months of training for MWSS-272, starting with about two months of classes and progressing to field training that lasted almost continuously until this last training mission at Exercise Desert Talon.

The squadron will return home to New River before deploying to Iraq in August.

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