News: Bats fly through CAS training
Story by Lance Cpl. Charles Clark
IWAKUNI, Japan - Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242 Marines performed close-air support training in their F/A-18D Hornets at Kadena Air Base Okinawa July 18–20, 2012.
CAS training improves air-to-air skills and air-to-ground support. Marines fighting on the ground make a call to a squadron, such as the Bats, and the F-18s rain hellfire and brimstone down on the enemy.
“As an F/A-18D Hornet squadron, this is our mission,” said Capt. Robert W. Latta, VMFA(AW)-242 F/A-18 pilot. “We support the Marines on the ground when they need something or someone blown up.”
The VMFA(AW)-242 aircrew conducts this kind of training every two to three months, so when it’s time to train they get as much out of it as they can.
“We never miss an opportunity to train,” said Capt. Matthew G. Tavernier, VMFA(AW)-242 weapon systems operator training officer. “Even on the flight down to Okinawa, we simulated scenarios for air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.”
The Bats’ aircrew performed daytime and nighttime exercises, which better trained them for real scenarios.
Unlike other training exercises, VMFA(AW)-242 did not fly simulations with its Air Force counterparts. Instead, The Bats’ pilots and weapon systems operators flew in support of 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit ground forces and Marine Attack Squadron 542.
“The 31st MEU provided the ground troops as well as helicopters from their air combat element,” said Tavernier. “VMA-542 provided its AV-8B Harriers as the other fixed-wing aircraft for the training.”
The Bats cannot perform CAS training here due to the lack of ground ranges.
“It takes a lot of practice to integrate our aircraft with the ground forces,” said Tavernier. “We don’t get the opportunity to conduct this training here while actual forces are on the ground.”
Okinawa provides the closest CAS training ground available for the VMFA(AW)-242 pilots and WSOs.