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Harriers Intimidate Insurgents, Assist Infantry

US Marine Corps News

9/18/2009 By Lance Cpl. Gregory Aalto , Marine Aircraft Group 40

A pair of AV-8B Harrier pilots directly assisted troops under enemy fire Aug. 8 in Garmsir, Helmand province.

Lt. Col. Eric Schaefer, commanding officer and Capt. Michael Plucinski, pilot, both with Marine Attack Squadron 214, Marine Aircraft Group 40, provided a low-altitude, high speed flight about 15 minutes after a group of Marines from 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, became overwhelmed by enemy small-arms fire and indirect explosive attacks.

"Within 40 seconds of our show of force, the enemy disengaged," said Schaefer.
Plucinski provided support with use of the Harrier GAU-12 25mm cannon, which caused the insurgents to break contact long enough for the 2/8 Marine, with Regimental Combat Team 3, on the ground to coordinate mortar attacks, as close as 150 meters from their own positions.

"It seemed there was a lot of chaos down there," said Plucinski.

After a nearly 15 minute lull in the firefight, due to the presence of the Harriers, the enemy began to reengage. By this point the Marines already possessed the upper hand and overwhelmed the insurgent force.

"The situation was a textbook example of combined arms assisting the [infantrymen] to provide force protection," said Schaefer.

As Marine Expeditionary Brigade Afghanistan continues to push through the Helmand province, the support of VMA-214 proves vital in keeping Marines alive by intimidating insurgents with superior firepower.

A month after the squadron arrived to Afghanistan, Plucinski flew a similar mission to support ground troops engaged with enemy forces.

Mirroring the squadron's recent encounter, VMA-214 pilots arrived on a scene where ground troops became pinned down by enemy fire near Now Zad, Helmand province. This mission allowed Plucinski to fire the 25mm cannon for the first in combat in his career.

Since arriving in Afghanistan in May, VMA-214, nicknamed the "Black Sheep," has provided continuous aerial support by conducting approximately five missions a day in support of MEB-A in Helmand province.

The Black Sheep are scheduled to leave Afghanistan later this year and return to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. They plan to spend about a year at home before deploying again, this time with Marine Expeditionary Unit 31.

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