MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. --
The machine-gun beat of helicopter rotors set the scene at a remote desert airfield as sweat-drenched, dirt-covered Marines loaded onto CH-53D Sea Stallions to begin the final exercise of the Weapons and Tactics Instructor course May 15, 2010.
Company A, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, bearing the call sign “Red Death,” completed a helicopter-borne raid at the Barry M. Goldwater Range in Arizona to more closely integrate themselves with aerial support.
The infantry Marines jumped at the chance to train with helicopters for their upcoming deployment with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Companies B and C completed similar training on May 3, 2010.
“Helicopter operations are what are going on in Afghanistan right now,” said Staff Sgt. Francisco Romero, platoon sergeant with the battalion, which is based in Camp Pendleton, Calif.
It’s important for the battalion and company to understand the planning process in working with aircraft, said 2nd Lt. Alex Carney, weapons platoon commander with Company A. Training like this helps the ground troops understand what needs to be done when working with the aircraft.
After being dropped off near a simulated insurgent camp, the Marines divided themselves into three task-oriented platoons. The Marines used 360-degree security to cover the assault and support elements of the company as they opened fire on the camp.
Even while providing fire, the Marines still kept up communication with external support, calling in close-air forces and directing fire for a scout sniper team that was in place the night before.
“The Marines did outstanding and were very well-focused,” said Capt. James Richardson, company commanding officer. “We learned a lot of valuable lessons. We got dropped off farther than we expected, but the platoons still communicated well with each other, letting each know where the other was. It was an outstanding opportunity to have a tactical environment.”