News: Fire from above: CLB-6 adds air controllers to arsenal
Story by Cpl. Paul Peterson
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - They have whirring, thunderous powers of destruction at their fingertips: AH-1W Super Cobras, artillery, F/A-18 Hornets, even time-tested Huey gunships.
Sure, some pioneers break new ground from the sky, but the Tactical Air Control Party team in the field with Combat Logistics Battalion 6, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, is welding together a unique combination of logistical supporters and air controllers as the unit ramps up for Operation Enduring Freedom.
“I don’t know of an instance where a full-fires capable team has deployed with a (Combat Logistics Battalion),” said Maj. Istvan P. Feher, the senior joint terminal attack controller with CLB-6. “Speaking on behalf of all of us with the team, we’re glad to be in such a unique position … it’s one of the opportunities that just doesn’t come along often enough.”
OEF currently demands Feher’s team of five Marines be well situated to support one of the most active and important pillars of the Marine Corps’ mission there: logistics.
“We’re actually ahead of the game,” said Capt. Michael J. Hilleary, a JTAC with CLB-6. “In our community, it’s unheard of. We’re an oddity. It’s a good thing though. Going to OEF is a fantastic opportunity for us because the environment there is heavily reliant on the logistics battalion.”
That reliance is bolstered by combined-arms firepower capabilities brought by the team’s training with the battalion.
“It’s learning by exploration as we go forward,” said Hilleary, a Manassas, Va., native who goes by the call sign “Duff.”
The battalion flexed this new TACP muscle during a live-fire exercise here, May 18, when the team called in strikes from fighter aircraft and helicopter gunships.
Their pioneering efforts with CLB-6 aside — the actual bomb-dropping, ground-breaking work done by team members requires detailed training, which the team jumps on at every opportunity, said Hilleary.
They’ve even spread their knowledge to the battalion’s Marines by hosting helicopter support team training sessions and assisting with call-for-fire simulator training.
“We bring to it a wealth of experience from our different fields,” said Feher, also known as “SOS,” a Boise, Idaho, native who served as a Cobra pilot for eight years. “It requires a high level of situational awareness … (calling in missions) is different each time, but it’s always good. A lot of it has to do with the dynamic of the controller and the aircraft supporting it, their level of understanding and proficiency.”
Feher added the TACP continues to define its niche as TACP members also assist the battalion with helicopter resupply missions, casualty evacuation, and the movement of personnel by air assets.