By LANCE CPL. ANTONIO RUBIO
Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni
TINIAN, Northern Mariana Island—For only the second time in recent years, a KC-130J Hercules aircraft lands on Baker runway at Tinian’s North Field on Dec. 5 during Exercise Forager Fury II.
FF II will allow Marine Aircraft Group 12 to improve aviation combat readiness and will simulate operations in a deployed, expeditionary environment.
“Tinian allows us to put a lot of Marines in the field and build those expeditionary runways, make clearings, set up radar, set up com-nods in an environment where there is no infrastructure to start from, so we’re truly in the field,” said Brig. Gen. Steven Rudder, commanding general of 1st Marine Air Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “What MAG-12 has done out here is exactly what our mission set calls for, take the MAG and all it’s critical assets and rapidly deploy them, put them in the field, and start operations.”
The existing training areas provide an opportunity to establish an expeditionary airfield without the need for heavy equipment or major engineering projects.
“Marines prepared Baker to receive aircraft to allow us to conduct flight operations,” said Lt Col. Howard Eyth, commanding officer with MWSS-171, MAG-12, 1st MAW, III MEF. . “Marines really enjoyed the opportunity to get tactical operating training and the experience they’ve employed to accomplish this task.”
Training on Tinian’s North Field also included base cantonment life support and tactical logistics support which played a role in expeditionary airfield development, according to Eyth. The North Field exercise operations focused on clearing, stripping and repairing deteriorated runways.
With the opportunity provided, operations did face a challenge to exercise specific unit capabilities while restoring and preserving some of our treasured national landmarks, according to Capt. Patrick Junick, engineer combat commander with MWSS-171.
“It’s been a challenge not damaging the asphalt while clearing it, particular with Able runway,” said Junick. “To watch the [heavy equipment] and [combat engineers] Marines go through the vegetation of Charlie and Dog and the taxiways connecting the two was just amazing to watch. In four weeks, those Marines took a jungle and restored it into four runways.”
The runways at North Field have extensive damage from the surface erosion and vegetation overgrowth, according to Sgt. Jonathan Sanchez, heavy equipment operator with MWSS-171. Removing vegetation from previously disturbed surfaces and restoring portions of North Field presented a significant opportunity to develop tactical expeditionary airfield, allowed Marines to hone their skills.
“The main obstacle we faced was the heavy brush visibility,” said Sanchez. “We were trying to take out the roots but the branches and the thick brush hinder our ability to see what was going on. However, I’m glad exercises like this do occur because this right here brings us back to mastering the basics and that’s one of the key things. Mastering the basics allows for junior Marines to move on something more complex and my Marines definitely did that out here, whether pushing trees or turning wrenches.”
The series of exercises that MAG-12 is conducting in the Mariana Islands focus on refining core skills within the squadrons and MAG. This in turn prepares them to function as an integrated air unit able to perform a wide range of missions.