MASS-1: Al Anbar’s 9-1-1

11 Apr 2007 | Cpl. Zachary Dyer

Marine Air Ground Task Force – a force comprised of ground and air units working together to accomplish the mission. It is this coordination between air and ground forces that makes the Marine Corps successful in every endeavor.

For the II Marine Expeditionary Force, this coordination starts with the Marines of Marine Air Support Squadron 1.

From the Direct Air Support Center in Camp Fallujah, and from their detachments located at Ramadi and Al Asad, the Marines of MASS-1 control the airspace for all of the II MEF area of operations, according to Lt. Col. Ward Quinn, the commanding officer of MASS-1

“Our job is to receive and process requests for immediate air support,” said Quinn, a Lancaster, Pa., native. “We control all the airspace in the Al Anbar Province below 14,000 feet.”

Using sophisticated radios, computers and maps, the “Chieftains” can track and communicate with every airborne asset, according to Sgt. Dustin Adams, an air support network operator for the Chieftains.   

“To really summarize it, if you need immediate air requests, like if you need a bomb dropped on somebody, if you need a bleeding Marine picked up, or if you need to get out of the country real quick, we are the 24 hour guys, the immediate air guys,” said Adams, a Lockwood, Mo., native. “Anything that needs to happen now, air-wise, we take care of it.”

There are Marines in the DASC at all times, making sure that the right aviation assets are moving to the right place to accomplish the mission. The Chieftains work in three eight-hour shifts, according to Adams.

“There’s 24-hour continuous coverage,” said Adams. “There’s always somebody on the DASC. There’s always somebody awake, always somebody sitting there.

Outside the DASC, two specialized Humvees hold the radios that allow the Chieftains to communicate with aircraft. Another group of Marines makes sure that these radios are constantly operating.

“The radios that (the DASC) is using for all these missions, we maintain," said Sgt. Abimael Clemente, a Chieftain aviation systems communications specialist, and a Chicago, Ill., native. “We make sure that these radios are up and ready at all times. Our motto here is ‘You can talk about us, but you can’t talk without us’.”

The Chieftains, the only Wing unit headquartered in Fallujah, arrived in January. Quinn said their location alongside II MEF allows the MASS-1 Marines to better support the service members on the ground.

Quinn expects three things out of his Marines while they are deployed. They are what he calls his three P’s: pride, preparedness and professionalism.

“The biggest thing is professionalism,” said Quinn. “There’s only one unit in all of (Multi-National Forces-West) that does what we do. It’s not a lot of people, but we do provide that critical capability to the entire force, and we go about it professionally. The Marines are professionals, they know what they’re doing and they do it well.”

Quinn said his Marines are ready to help the service members on the ground accomplish the mission.

“Everybody contributes to the fact that the guys outside the wire have that 9-1-1 capability,” said Quinn. “We’re Al Anbar 9-1-1, if you will. It may sound silly, but when somebody needs help out here, they call us.”

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