KALSU, Iraq -- The 155th Brigade Combat Team is a U.S. Army unit operating here in support of the Marine Expeditionary Force deployed to Iraq. The unit operates under Marine regulations and a handful of leathernecks are working to manage its battle space ‘every day, Marine Corps’ way.’
The Air Support Element of the 155th BCT is comprised of Marines from Marine Air Support Squadron 1, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward). Their responsibilities here include integrating air missions with warfighters on the ground, processing immediate air support requests, coordinating casualty and medical evacuations and assisting the base’s air boss manage the airfield.
“We also handle prior-planned requests, which let the air boss know ahead of time that aircraft are arriving here and allow him to coordinate everything they need, whether it is fuel or forklifts to offload gear,” said Capt. Daryl E. Horton, officer-in-charge of the Air Support Element and native of Columbia, S.C. “We work closely with the air boss and the air traffic controllers to help them manage the airfield effectively and ensure that there are no mishaps.”
According to Horton, the Army and the Marine Corps deploy in different ways. While every battalion of U.S. Army soldiers deploys with a dedicated aviation company, the Marine Corps uses its aircraft to support all ground units in the area of operations.
“All Marine Corps aircraft are in general support of everybody,” said Horton. “When you have that type of responsibility you have to have somebody in control of the airspace. We maintain positive control of the airspace and keep track of where the aircraft are located. If there are any immediate needs such as [casualty evacuations] or close air support, we take care of those.”
Aboard Kalsu since January, Horton and his Marines have been helping the unit of soldiers accomplish its mission in accordance with Marine guidelines. Each Marine in the Air Support Element, regardless of his rank, is able to perform everyone’s job, and Horton said this allows the junior Marines to make solid and effective life-saving decisions when supervision isn’t possible.
Prior to deploying here, Marines from MASS-1 participated in several training exercises in areas near Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, N.C., and spent time at Marine Corps Air Station, Yuma, Ariz., soaking up sun and knowledge during Exercise Desert Talon.
“The training we received was pretty close to what we’re seeing here, but nothing beats experience,” said Horton. “You don’t take indirect fire or have troops in contact during an exercise; here you have to make split-second decisions. Training is a great precursor, but the real ‘meat’ is learned being here.”
The accomplishments of the 155th BCT and the forward deployed 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing are noticed time after time as they root out insurgency and assist the Iraqis with developing their security forces. The Marines in the Air Support Element here manage their piece of the battle space, and their actions are essential in the forging of a brighter future for the people of Iraq.
- For more information about the Marines reported on in this story, please contact Sgt. Juan Vara by e-mail at email@example.com -