MARINE CORPS BASE KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii -- A group of Hawaii-based Marines will soon be off on a combat deployment to Iraq, which means combat training is paramount right now. Marines in Hawaii can only conduct so much of their vital training on their island home of Oahu, so they’re getting a helping hand and some strategic lift from the Air Force.
An Air Force Reserve crew from Niagara Falls, N.Y. is taking Marines from the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment to the Big Island of Hawaii for their much needed predeployment training. The crew and C-130 aircraft are from the 328TH Airlift Squadron and are ensuring the entire battalion and their personal fighting equipment make it to the Pohakuloa Training Area on time for their training.
According to Capt. Jason Borovies, a 1/3 company commander, his company will be firing every weapon system in the unit’s inventory during a ten-day training event at the Pohakuloa Training Area, known as PTA; a task that would be impossible on Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay.
“That’s significant because it’s just way too difficult to do something like that on Oahu with all the restrictions that we have on us and the limited availability of major resources like training areas and ranges. So coming up here on the Big Island gives us the opportunity to do everything we need to over a three or four month period in one condensed 10-day block,” said the Alpha Company commander. Training that is invaluable for his Marines at a time before a deployment, he said.
The Air Force C-130 crew is taking roughly 60 Marines and three to six thousand pounds of gear each flight with four or five flights a day ensuring the delivery of the entire battalion of Marines and equipment to PTA.
During the year Air Force airlift squadrons attend conferences to find units around the country who have airlift needs, and units like the 328th in a sense purchase and support those movements. These conferences are called Joint Air Asset Allocation Conferences or JAAAC.
“They said does anyone want to come out to Hawaii and move some Marines from Kaneohe to (PTA) and our guys said we could do it,” said C-130 pilot Capt. Ron Schier of the 328th. “That’s how we end up coming down here.”
Schier explained that by supporting the Marines here, he and the rest of the crew receive a good deal of training, flight time and overall experience. One way is by landing and taking off the 3700 feet Bradshaw Airfield at PTA.
“It is a lot of good training for us to land on such a short field rather than eight or nine thousand strips that we are use to,” he said.
The War on Terror has asked each and every branch to step up and support each other. According to Schier, missions like this are the Air Forces’ ‘bread and butter’ and is one of many ways they support the Army and Marines overseas.
“Most of us from our squadron have spent at least six months in the desert this past year doing exactly what we are doing right now, moving Marines from one base to another,” he said.
Marine Warrant Officer Michael T. Jenkins explained how sister services working together, like this, can save money.
“It helps in ways like tax payers’ dollars,” said the 3rd Marine Regiment Embarkation Officer. “We don’t have to go and request charter or commercial tickets; (the Air Force) comes out and provides those missions for us. And then it proves that services can work together; it’s the Air Force coming out to work with the Marine Corps and both of us are doing what we do best.”
After the Marines complete their training on the Big Island, they will head to California for more training and then off to Iraq early next year for roughly six months. According to Jenkins, the Air Force crews are making it possible for the 1/3 Marines to be better prepared during those months.
“The Air Force is giving the Marines the training that they need to get over (to Iraq) and then in turn they’ll probably assist us in missions going over to OIF in theater.”
After a 45 minute flight over some of the other Hawaiian Islands the Marines make it to PTA. They unload and minutes later the C-130 crew hits the short runway fast and takes off to head back to Kaneohe Bay to pick up the next load of leathernecks.
“We’ll be at it until everyone’s there,” said a crew member.
(To view the TV version of this story click here: http://188.8.131.52/afnews/video/USAFgetUSMCthere.wmv)