Air Force Featured Stories

Airmen, Marines seize airfield during training

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Stephen G. Eigel
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
Standing at the edge of the open ramp on an MC-130J Commando II, 13,000 feet above their target with the cold wind whipping through the aircraft, they wait for the green light and the go sign from the aircraft’s loadmaster allowing them to jump and parachute in to take their target.

The 353rd Special Operations Group, along with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, Force Reconnaissance Platoon conducted an airfield seizure operations exercise at Wake Island from Aug. 23-27.

“The 320th (Special Tactics Squadron) and the Force Reconnaissance Platoon conducted this training to build interoperability between our two units,” said Air Force Capt. Dunn, the 320th STS special tactics officer. “It enabled us to identify better ways to work together and ensure we are able to execute a joint mission as smoothly as possible when the time comes.”

The mission of the exercise was for the jump clearing teams, consisting of a small team of special tactics Airmen and the force reconnaissance Marines, to jump onto Wake Island, seize the airfield and provide air traffic control allowing an MC-130J from the 17th Special Operations Squadron to land.

“This exercise is important for a couple reasons,” Dunn said. “It allowed our team to conduct a military freefall jump onto an unmarked, uncontrolled drop zone located on a small, geographically isolated island. It is essential that we maintain this capability because it most closely replicates what a real-world military freefall mission might look like.”

The realistic training of the operations conducted allowed the units to address any issues before taking on any real-world tasking.

“Working with outside units in training often highlights interoperability issues and allows us to address them before real world tasking come down,” Dunn said.

Airmen and Marines were able to take a lot away from the training and discover what they can do better together in the future.

“Working with the 31st MEU Force Reconnaissance Platoon is always a rewarding experience,” Dunn said. “Their professionalism and high level of technical proficiency allows the 320th (STS) and the Marines to work well together every time we conduct joint training.”

Increasing interoperability with joint partners during training exercises enhances cohesion between the units and helps translate into real-world success.

"Force reconnaissance and special tactics units pair extremely well.” said Marine Corps Capt. Joshua J. Chambers, the Force Reconnaissance Platoon commander. “The training event was an excellent opportunity to showcase the enhanced capabilities of our units when we team together. I greatly enjoyed working with the 320th (STS), and I hope this is one of many future joint training exercises between force reconnaissance Marines and special tactics Airmen."