Marine air-ground team trains for success

19 Sep 2007 | Pfc. Achilles Tsantarliotis

“It’s a lot like a sniper team, only if they screw up, they get captured. If we screw up, we get blown up.”

Cpl. Adam “Nasty” Anderson, forward air control radio operator, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, spoke with clarity and calmness as he explained the considerable danger in his job, describing a bomb’s two potential targets: the “painted” target or the origin of the laser.

Air-to-ground support is what sets the Marine Corps apart. Missions consist of casualty evacuations, supply drops, transportation and of course, fire support.

Fire support was what these FAC’s were training for here Sept. 19, using training explosives and working along side the Air Force’s skilled F-16 pilots.

The Marines practiced coordinating locations and engaging simulated targets.

“I’m an advisor,” said Capt. Brian “Nash” Moore, tactical air control officer in charge, 2/3, explaining the air mission can be as mundane as cargo drops, or something a little more difficult like combined arms support in hostile areas.

Moore also helps prevent fratricide by monitoring the exact locations of ground and air support.

“I’m the link between them and relay information so everyone is constantly aware of friendly locations,” Moore continued.

The FACs focused on basics, along with coordinating mortar fire with 2/3’s Weapons Company for additional fire support.

This training prepares them for the final pre-deployment training, Mojave Viper, where they will use live ammunition, artillery and other assets to assist ground elements.

As dangerous as that sounds, the world’s finest fighting force has the process mastered, which factors into the Marine Corps’ warfighting success.

Such precision is attained through repeated practice and training. Knowing the pilots, the wind, elevation and coordinates is essential for these highly trained professionals, and mistakes, such as lack of communication, can be disastrous for friendly units.

“The pilots and the advisor are amazing, they know what they’re doing and how to do it,” said Lance Cpl. Andrew “Twins” Hickman, FACRO. “We’ll use the laser just as a little extra precision to the target. It’s like guiding an airplane, only you guide the missile to an exact target, and when it’s being dropped sometimes miles away, that’s pretty damn good.”

Trust and cohesiveness among Marines in every echelon, level, rank and billet is a recurring theme, and with it comes the overwhelming ability to defeat enemies with minimal effort and casualties.

“I’m supporting battalions and saving Marines,” Anderson said. “I don’t care if I’m alone up on the mountain or anywhere for that matter, I know they have my back no matter where they are and if they need mine they can trust us.”

Headquarters Marine Corps