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Yuma Marines take control in Red Flag exercise

By Lance Cpl. Aaron Diamant | | September 3, 2009

Marine Air Control Squadron 1 Marines are slated to return home to the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Ariz., Sept. 12, 2009, from air-to-air warfare training at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas.

Red Flag is a multinational, large-scale, air-to-air combat exercise held on the 15,000-square-mile Nevada Test and Training Range, not only testing the skills of pilots, but the maintainers and support personnel as well.

“Red Flag is the quintessential training for the Air Force’s air-to-air combat warfare program,” said Gunnery Sgt. Timothy Clark, the Tactical Air Operations Center staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the MACS-1 Red Flag detachment.

During the exercise, 20 Marines from the TAOC were responsible for controlling the air space for 11 of the 19 training missions, including directing all partipating aircraft to the Nevada Test and Training Range. They also directed the pilots of the aircraft once the battle began.

“The TAOC is a complete air battle space management service,” said Capt. Christopher Montgomery, TAOC detachment commander. “The center is responsible for directing everything that goes into the air in the training area, including military and commercial aircraft, artillery shells and rockets.”

The Marines were broken up into a day and night shift, providing 24-hour air control for the exercise.

Red Flag provided a unique opportunity for MACS-1 to train newer air controllers in a realistic environment, said Montgomery.

Marines didn’t have to pretend to talk to each other over a radio, while standing right next to one another, said Clark.

Unlike other training operations the center takes part in, nothing in Red Flag is simulated, said Clark. The Marines were managing real aircraft in dogfights with Air Force aggressor units.

As many as 80 aircraft participated during the exercise, said Clark. It created an exciting atmosphere, and kept the Marines busy.

The training also provided participants an opportunity to work alongside service members from other service branches and countries.

This Red Flag exercise had aircraft from the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, and included units from the Italian and the United Arab Emirates air forces. Participating aircraft included fighters, bombers, interceptors, in-flight refuelers and electronic warfare and cargo aircraft from across the United States and abroad.

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