MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- The Moon Dogs of Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 3 from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., visited the station recently for five weeks to support the Weapons and Tactics Instructor course.
Unlike most squadrons aboard station for the WTI course, VMAQ-3 came to train as an autonomous unit while also supporting the course, said Sgt. Maj. John Ballard, squadron sergeant major and native of Sweet Water, Ala.
The squadron is one of four tactical electronic warfare squadrons in the Fleet Marine Force tasked with conducting airborne electronic warfare, and is slated to deploy soon.
While the Moon Dogs are no strangers to deployments, many of the experienced Marines have rotated out of the squadron due to end of active service and permanent change of station orders, leaving less than half the squadron with deployment experience.
For this reason, the Moon Dogs were happy to incorporate their WTI support training into upcoming deployment combat-readiness training, said 1st Lt. Adam Scott, squadron public affairs officer and Houston native.
“Some of the most important accomplishments included having every Marine in the squadron fire a live missile, qualifying new night systems instructors, qualifying defensive tactics instructors and aircrew, and surpassing all flight-hour goals,” said Scott. “The maintenance Marines also excelled in maintaining five EA-6B Prowler aircraft readiness rates that exceeded their wing’s goals.”
“Given constrained defense dollars and reduced time between deployments, Marines are challenged to find new and innovative ways to train,” said VMAQ-3 Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Marshall Denney. "I'm proud of the way our Moon Dogs rose to that challenge. My higher headquarters gave me a budget for this detachment and normally, on that budget, you can get X, Y, Z done, but by working together with (Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1), we have been able to get so much more -- A to Z. We have really maximized the tax-payers’ dollar. (VMAQ-3) has produced unprecedented successes here. We’re ready to deploy.”
For some of the Marines, the desert temperature and terrain here was paramount in their preparation for their upcoming deployment.
"(This WTI training) allowed us to pack up as a unit and come out here to work in a different environment and climate, which is similar to the one we will see (in theater)," said Staff Sgt. Ian Byrum, staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the VMAQ-3 electrical shop and native of Columbus, Ohio.
Sgt. Shane Sink, flight equipment technician and native of Tampa, Fla., said the training allowed the Moon Dogs to practice like they play.
“We were able to utilize operations with all different aircraft to encompass the entire realm of what goes on on the actual battlefield," said Sink. “We accomplished everything that we came out here to do, so if the upcoming deployment goes as well, we'll be in great shape.”
For many of the Marines, the training was especially important because it was preparing them for their first deployment.
“For us first-timers, it has definitely helped to bond this squadron," said Lance Cpl. Jordan Tilley, electric intelligence technician and a native of Tucson. "Also, being able to go around to the different squadrons which we will be interacting with (in theater) definitely helps."
While the squadron’s Marines formed a stronger bond, the squadron leaders were able to take control in a high operational tempo, which is similar to the in-theater tempo, and make use of the downtime.
“Whether we had three hours or 30 minutes, I made them do everything as fast as possible so they could get an idea of what it is going to be like (on deployment) when they don’t have time to sit around and enjoy themselves at work,” said Sgt. Brandy Holtz, aviation ordnance technician and native of San Antonio. “Once the work gets done, there is a lot of downtime. (The Marines) have to learn to use that time to be productive. There was a lot of studying getting done and a lot of qualifications that wouldn’t have gotten done (otherwise).”
Ballard said he expects the training, preparations and dedication of the Moon Dogs will pay off during the upcoming deployment.
“The training has been a huge success,” said Ballard. “These Marines take whatever steps are necessary to get these aircraft up and down in a safe, efficient manner. I have no doubt that the deployment will be a success.”