Units of 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing and 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, both with II Marine Expeditionary Force, concluded the 10- day combined arms exercise Arrowhead Thunder 2016 at Fort Stewart, Ga. Aug. 19
Squadrons from Marine Corps Air Station New River, and F/A-18C Hornets from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort provided close air support and airborne forward air control while the CH-53E Super Stallions supported the M77 Howitzer with lift assistance.
"Arrowhead Thunder was an exercise primarily for 1/10 Marines, which is an artillery battalion, to exercise all their skills and to integrate exterior elements, creating a better simulation of what the battlefield looks like when they are deployed," said Capt. Trevor W. Sewell, a CH-53E Super Stallion pilot with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464, Marine Aircraft Group 29.
For the entire exercise to come together and run smoothly it took the cooperation of multiple units aboard Fightertown. Station fuels and Marine Wing Support Detachment 31 provided a lot of the ground work to make sure the aircraft were fueled to fly.
"Without the Marines from Station Fuels and MWSD-31 fuels, exercises like this wouldn’t be possible," said Gunnery Sgt. Lyle McIntyre, the staff non-commissioned officer in charge of station fuels with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron. "Leadership plans out the exercises and it’s the Marines who pull it off." Station fuels and MWSD-31 used MK970s to fuel the aircraft on the flight line.
Last week while the exercise was in progress more than 309,000 gallons of fuel were used. An MK9-70 is a tactical, low profile semi-trailer used for fueling and defueling aircraft. It can hold 5,000 gallons of fuel and is the primary fueling vehicle used aboard MCAS Beaufort.
"There are two types of fueling," said McIntyre. "Hot fuel, fueling when the aircraft’s engine is running and cold fuel, when the engine is off. In total last week there were 65,000 gallons in hot fuel and 244,000 in cold fuel." During the exercise, flying squadrons from MCAS New River used facilities aboard MCAS Beaufort for a staging area. Two AH-1W Super Cobras, two UH-1Y Venoms from MCAS New River and F-18 Hornets from MCAS Beaufort supported the exercise.
"Primarily we provided the fixed wing close airborne support," said Maj. Craig McDermott, assistant operations officer with Marine Aircraft Group 31. "We don’t get to train with ground units very often. This scale of exercise was the next step up from our usual training exercises." Marines in the air and ground came together to create a large scale combat situation.
The Marine Corps’ ability to work as an air and ground task force is a powerful asset and part of what makes it unique, explained Sewell. This exercise allowed for Marines to do exactly that, train as a MAGTF. "Exercises that implement ground and air components foster teamwork and cohesiveness," said McDermott. "Any chance we got to work with our ground brethren is great. It reminds us of our true purpose, to support those ground components."