Seizing an airfield

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Stephen G. Eigel
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs

Standing at the edge of the open ramp on an MC-130J Commando II, 13,000 feet above their target with the cold wind whipping through the aircraft, they wait for the green light and the aircraft’s loadmaster to give the go sign allowing them to jump from the ramp and parachute in to take their target.


August 23-27, the 353rd Special Operations Group along with the III Marine Expeditionary Force, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, Force Reconnaissance Platoon conducted an airfield seizure operations exercise at Wake Island.


“The 320th and the Force Reconnaissance Platoon conducted this training to build interoperability between our two units,” said Capt. Blaze Dunn, 320th Special Tactics Squadron special tactics officer. “It enabled us to identify better ways to work together and ensure we are able to execute a joint mission as smoothly as possible when the time comes.”


The mission of the exercise was for the Jump Clearing Teams (JCT), consisting of a small team of Special Tactics Airmen and the Force Reconnaissance Marines, to jump onto Wake Island, seize the airfield and provide air traffic control allowing an MC-130J Commando II from the 17th Special Operations Squadron to land.


“This exercise is important for a couple reasons,” said Dunn. “It allowed our team to conduct a military freefall jump onto an unmarked, uncontrolled drop zone located on a small, geographically-isolated island. It is essential that we maintain this capability because it most closely replicates what a real world military freefall mission might look like.”


The realistic training of the operations conducted allowed the units to address any issues before taking on any real world tasking.


“The entire force learned how we can better execute a time-sensitive tasking to deploy and perform an airfield seizure, primarily what’s required for coordination between all the ground and air players,” said Dunn. “Working with outside units in training often highlights interoperability issues and allows us to address them before real world tasking come down.”


Both the Airmen and Marines were able to take a lot away from the training and discover what they can do better together in the future.


“Working with the 31st MEU Force Reconnaissance Platoon is always a rewarding experience,” Dunn added. “Their professionalism and high-level of technical proficiency allows the 320th and the Marines to work well together every time we conduct joint training."


Increasing interoperability with our joint partners during training exercises is essential for real world success.


"Force Reconnaissance and Special Tactics units pair extremely well.” said Capt. Joshua Chambers, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit Force Reconnaissance Platoon commander. “The training event was an excellent opportunity to showcase the enhanced capabilities of our units when we team together. I greatly enjoyed working with the 320th Special Tactics Squadron, and I hope this is one of many future joint training exercises between Force Reconnaissance Marines and Special Tactics Airmen."