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Hawks soar into Okinawa to prep for joint service training

US Marine Corps News

5/12/2011 By Lance Cpl. Charlie Clark, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan — The main body for Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533, an F/A-18 Hornet squadron based out of Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C., landed here May 4 in preparation for the Marine Division Tactics Course.

MDTC is a graduate level course for pilots to improve their efficiency in the air-to-air arena.

This course is significant because it is the first time MDTC has been conducted in the Western Pacific.

“As a unit deployment program squadron, we aren’t available for the opportunity to get this kind of training while deployed,” said Lt. Col. George B. Rowell, VMFA(AW)-533’s commanding officer.

The Unit Deployment Program is a program set up by the commandant of the Marine Corps and is focused toward deploying units to the Westpac for periods of approximately six months.

Marine Aircraft Group 12 is hosting VMFA(AW)-533’s training while in Westpac. With support from MAG-12, VMFA(AW)-533 is able to conduct this training while deployed.

“Now that MDTC has traveled out here, we are going to be able to take full advantage of the training,” Rowell said.

The course will put pilots through increasingly more difficult scenarios.

Beginning as one aircraft against another aircraft during simulated air-to-air exercises, the course will culminate with four friendly aircraft versus an unknown number of enemy aircraft.

Kadena Air Base has some unique features to allow for more training variety for the pilots.

One feature is the use of instrumented ranges. The instrumented ranges are pods put on the aircraft to track the aircraft movement in real time and during playback.

This provides invaluable data for the pilots during exercise debriefs, said Rowell.

The other reason is the Air Force aircraft can be used during training as both friendly and enemy forces during the training exercises.

Although MDTC is training for the pilots, the aircraft still need to be maintained by the maintenance Marines.

“It has taken about four days to transport all of our Marines and equipment from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni to Kadena via KC-130’s,” said Sgt. Maj. Suzie M. Hollings, the VMFA(AW)-533 squadron sergeant major.

The maintenance Marines job is to keep VMFA(AW)-533’s aircraft safe and mission ready at all times.

“We have a lot of aircraft out here,” said Luis J. Pantoja, VMFA(AW)-533 maintenance control chief. “My Marines ensure that all the maintenance actions are performed correctly and efficiently.”

MAG-12 is hosting this training, and has helped support and assist VMFA(AW)-533 in its transition from air station to air station.

“(MAG-12) has been a great help to us,” Pantoja said. “They already had parts set up for the aircraft here, which made our job a lot easier.”

VMFA(AW)-533 and its Air Force counterpart are slated to start the MDTC exercises later this month.

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