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VMAQ-4 performs unique mission from Al Asad

Marine Corps News

Story Identification #: 20051264840
Story by Cpl. Paul W. Leicht

AL ASAD, Iraq (Jan. 26, 2005) -- Joining forces with brethren Marine units and aircraft in Iraq, the first EA-6B Prowlers with Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 4 began arriving here Jan. 20.

As an operational command asset for the Combined Force Air Component Commander, the latest edition to Marine aviation at Al Asad brings a distinctive role to counter insurgency operations in Iraq.

“Now that the surface to air threat in Iraq has been neutralized, we are performing a somewhat unique mission,” said Maj. Shane B. Conrad, executive officer, VMAQ-4, and a Towanda, Penn., native. “The classification of it is high enough that we can’t even talk about it in most secret areas, but it is designed to protect all of our Marines and civilians on the ground.”

Powered by two Pratt and Whitney turbofan engines, the EA-6B Prowler is manufactured by the Grumman Aircraft Corporation. As part of the Navy and Marine Corps team of tactical aircraft, the primary role of the Prowler is to support Fleet Marine Forces by means of electronic attack, tactical electronic support and electronic protection.

Rather than blowing up enemy targets with ordnance VMAQ-4 takes them out by rendering them electronically dysfunctional.

“Basically our aircraft is an electronic jamming platform,” said Conrad, who also flew the Prowler over Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. “We don’t carry the bombs that Hornets do. Essentially we go into an area and destroy surface to air missile systems (through active radar jamming) to support ground and air assaults and we also have limited effectiveness against certain types of anti-aircraft defenses. We protect other aircraft like the Hornets and Harriers.”

Coming to Iraq from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, the nearly 200 Marines with VMAQ-4 and their augments will now call Al Asad home for the next six to seven months.

“Our Marines are really excited about being here and supporting the mission,” said Lt.Col. Philip J. Zimmerman, commanding officer, VMAQ-4, and Littleton, Colo., native, whose squadron will be administratively supported by other Marine units at Al Asad.

In preparation for their current deployment, VMAQ-4 participated in Exercise Desert Talon in Yuma, Ariz., and spent a lot of time training with other squadron’s like Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224, as well as other CFACC assets to support their unique mission here, said Conrad.

“On the aviation side of the Corps we spend most of our time turning wrenches and doing what we need to in order to keep our aircraft flying, but we’re ready to do other Marine things too like standing a post or getting out to see the other side,” said Sgt. Wayne A. Switzer, powerline, VMAQ-4, and a native of Clinton, Miss.

Whether operating from land, the sea or expeditionary airfields, EA-6B squadrons like VMAQ-4 continue to provide the flexibility necessary for continuing to support ongoing operations in Iraq.


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