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MAG-29 participates in Operation Carolina Thunder

Marine Corps News

Story Identification #: 20055592322
Story by Lance Cpl. Jeffrey A. Cosola

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION NEW RIVER, N.C. (May 5, 2005) -- Marine Aircraft Group 29 participated in a long-range tactical recovery of aircraft personnel mission and casualty evacuation as part of Operation Carolina Thunder at the MacKall Army Airfield and Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune April 12.

The training missions, that included 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Battalion, E Company infantry Marines and the 8th Communications Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force, coincided with the Atlantic Field raid package that helped Marine Aircraft Group-29 simulate a fully operational Marine Air Ground Task Force, said Lt. Col. Robert S. Barr, MAG-29 operations officer.

A TRAP mission is authorized only if the downed personnel meet certain criteria including being alive, not in danger of eminent capture and have a known location within one nautical mile, said Maj. Archibald M. McLellan, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron- 61 executive officer and CH-53E pilot during the mission.

“If you can capture an American pilot and show that you have the ability to do that, that’s a major blow,” said McLellan. “But to go out and recover that pilot before the enemy has an opportunity to get him, that’s the ultimate preservation of assets.”

Three CH-53E Super Stallions, two AH-1W Cobras and approximately 40 ground troops comprised the TRAP force. The unexpected downing of an Army OH-58 Kiowa Warrior scout helicopter left one pilot alive and in need of recovery, said McLellan.

After establishing the necessary criteria, the TRAP force approached the retrieval location preceded first by F/A-18D Hornets and Cobras for close air support and was followed by a landing force that stormed the field and recovered the pilot successfully, said McLellan.

The simulated exercise reflected the ability of the Marines to display operational flexibility and adapt to technical and logistical issues that are common in combat scenarios, such as refueling aircraft for close air support and communication linkage, said McLellan.

“The Marines did phenomenal,” said McLellan. “It was great to see the execution go as planned, being able to flex and adapt is what it’s all about.”

Another aspect of Operation Carolina Thunder was the convoy escort and casualty evacuation portion of the training that included the 8th Comm. Bn., said Barr.

One Cobra and a UH-1N Huey were tasked as escorts to a convoy that included a 7-ton truck containing 16 corpsmen dressed in moulage kits simulating injuries, blood and broken bones, said Barr.

A simulated vehicle-born improvised explosive device in the form of a flashbang was set-off, and the corpsmen were strewn around the convoy site. Two CH-46E Sea Knights were diverted from the raid package and arrived at Camp Lejeune to evacuate casualties and take them to the MCAS New River simulated flightline aid station, said Barr.

“This was wonderful training both from an aviation standpoint and the convoy standpoint,” said Barr. “This is exactly the way we’d do it in Iraq, and a lot of valuable lessons were learned here in the States so that we don’t have to learn them in-country.”

In addition to the convoy training, the corpsmen involved gained invaluable experience in dealing with combat casualties, said 2nd Lt. Joshua N. Nunn, Alpha Company platoon commander, 8th Comm. Bn.

“The casualty simulation provided excellent training to our combat lifesavers and Marines who aided with the casualty evacuation,” said Nunn. “For most, this was the first time outside of the classroom that they have participated in a casualty evacuation in a realistic setting.”

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