By SGT. JUSTIN M. PACK
Special to the Saipan Tribune
TINIAN-Exercise Forager Fury 2012 officially began Nov. 28 as a Boeing 747-400 aircraft made history by being the first 747 to land on the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Island of Tinian.
The aircraft brought 160,000 pounds of equipment and gear which are vital for Marine Aircraft Group 12's execution of the exercise.
“We needed to get all this equipment down here; fuel bladders, arresting gear, tents and everything we need to run the airfield for our MAG-12 fixed wing aviation while also supporting Navy helicopters,” said Major Matthew Halbert, the airfield operations company commander and Tinian officer in charge for Marine Wing Support Squadron 171, MAG-12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “The airlift proved to be a great asset and the landing is a unique thing here; it proves a 747 can come into Tinian and showed everybody what you can do with this airfield.”
Forager Fury is a MAG-12 training exercise that will integrate Marine Air Ground Task Force-like functions with heavy emphasis on tactical aviation and aviation ground support in order to further develop a distributed, expeditionary capability within the Mariana Island Range Complex.
Any questions about the durability and size of the runway were answered as the 747 rolled down the taxiway under a setting sun and a full moon.
“The runway was pretty much the same length as [Marine Corps Air Station] Iwakuni's,” said Peter Pecenicic, the captain of the airplane who has 21 years of experience flying 747s. “This airport could land jumbo jets and not have a problem.”
As the plane was being unloaded, some members of the local Tinian community gathered along the fence line to get a better look at the massive airplane parked on their runway.
“MAG-12 is always anxious to train on Tinian because the people of Tinian are very welcoming, they are very appreciative, and very accommodating,” said Major Jonathan Kehr, the logistics officer for MAG-12. “These people are always very interested in what the Marine Corps is doing on their island.”
The goal of Forager Fury, which is scheduled to continue until Dec. 19, is to allow MAG-12 to demonstrate their ability to generate significant combat power in an expeditionary environment and also build relationships with the local community.