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Marines conduct Lightning Sword

US Marine Corps News

By Cpl. Kimberlyn Adams | March 18, 2017

Marine Air Control Group 38 conducted Exercise Lightning Sword, a Marine Air Command and Control System integrated training exercise, at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, MCAS Camp Pendleton, California, and MCAS Yuma, Arizona, March 6 to 17.

Lightning Sword provided MACG-38 an opportunity to exercise a fully capable MACCS in a constructed marine expeditionary force level scenario.

"We use common scenarios we see in a battle space or a major combat situation as the baseline for training with the MACCS," said Maj. Marcus Hinckley, wing air command control officer for 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. "We practice the scenarios to make sure we can get the information through our system at a rapid pace."

This system consists of various air command and control units designed to provide the Marine Air-Ground Task Force's aviation combat element commander with the ability to monitor, supervise and influence the application of Marine aviation functions.

A MAGTF is a scalable air-ground, combined arms task organization of Marine Corps forces under a single commander structured to accomplish a specific mission. The four core elements of a MAGTF are the command element, ground combat element, logistics combat element and ACE.

"We had five of our subordinate units participating in this exercise," said Maj. Michal Carlson, detachment officer in charge and assistant operations officer with MACG-38. "We had Marine Wing Communication Squadron 38, Marine Air Command Squadron 1, Marine Tactical Air Command Squadron 38, Marine Air Support Squadron 3 and 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion."

According to Carlson, the MACCS is vital to the Marine Corps and its mission.

"We are the 'hyphen' in the MAGTF; we are the connection between the air and ground," said Carlson. "Air command and control is important to the success of every mission. Without the controllers, pilots don't know where they are going or where to pick someone up. In a combat situation, pilots wouldn't know where to drop live rounds."

According to Col. Chris Richie, the commanding officer of MACG-38, this exercise is just the beginning of a new era of how the Marine Corps achieve aviation combat readiness.

"The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war," quoted Richie. "We have over 300 hundred Marines sweating, big time; they have been working hard doing things that have never been done before.
These Marines have instituted a new era on how we are going to have on-demand training at the small squadron level all the way up to the MEF level in the future."

Certain upgrades were required to enable this training at the unit's facilities, and this exercise highlighted ways to make those upgrades, added Hinckley.

"This the first time we used the Aviation Distributed Virtual Training Environment network," said Hinckley. "The MACCS used this network to tie everyone together during this exercise. The goal is to tie into the virtual simulators that the pilots use to give the controllers more experience."

A pilot can go into a flight simulator at any point and train, but air command and control Marines do not have the same level opportunities regularly.

"What we are trying to do with this exercise is make a case for a permanent install of the MACCS simulators at the bases around the wing," said Carlson. "We are trying to make it more efficient for the controllers to get their qualifications so we can be our best for the wing."

The command control functions required for the integration of the MAGTF would not be possible without the MACCS, said Hinckley.

"You can get rid of one platform, and we would still be an ACE. But the moment you take away the MACCS, we stop being an ACE," continued Hinckley.

According to Carlson, conducting this training across 3rd MAW is an important learning tool for the unit.

"We are doing this training scenario in our own backyard, but tying the three bases together has never been done," said Richie. "They figured out how to make it happen, and I couldn't be more proud of them."

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