Marines practice close air support

9 Mar 2007 | Lance Cpl. Richard Blumenstein

Marines with 5th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company practiced calling in precision air strikes Feb. 26-28, training as four-man teams directing aircraft to eliminate threats in urban environments.

The Marines focused on the independent collection and organization of target information using observation equipment and the surveillance capabilities of F/A-18C Hornets flying at an altitude of 7,000 feet. Then they chose the best course of action to eliminate the target; passed the information to the controller, an officer who authorizes the air support; and awaited approval.

"The training makes the already qualified Marines more proficient at guiding air support to targets," said Capt. John Steward, a controller with 2nd Brigade Platoon, 5th ANGLICO. "A lot of what we do is prosecuting targets and collecting surveillance to pass to higher."

During the training, teams guided F/A-18 aircraft to targets using maps that displayed areas in painstaking detail.

"The directions can be as descriptive as the northernmost window on the second floor," Stewart said. "Once we can confirm the aircraft has the target, we can positively identify if the target is a threat or not."

The teams had to determine the best course of action to eliminate threats with minimal collateral damage.

"It's a lot of responsibility to drop a bomb on a target," said Cpl. Michael K. Grant, a fire chief with 2nd Brigade Platoon. "This course gives our (controllers) confidence in our abilities to drop bombs on targets."

With the controller's approval, aircraft eliminate targets in the scenario using simulations of global positioning system guided missiles.

"We're not trying to damage anything more than our positively identified bad guys," Stewart said. "We can limit the amount of damage by using precise gear and precision-guided weapons. We can take out just a floor or room in a building. We can completely destroy a building and leave the building right next to it intact."
Headquarters Marine Corps