News: Marines learn aviation doctrine to improve intel, meteorological support
Story by Cpl. Scott L. Tomaszycki
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. - Intelligence and Meteorology and Oceanography Marines enrolled in the Squadron Intelligence Training and Certification Course at Cherry Point, learned about every kind of aircraft in the Marine air wing.
Comprised of more than 20 Marines from 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, 3rd MAW and 2nd Intelligence Battalion, the students were exposed to the full range of each platform’s capabilities and limitations. This training provides students with the operational information and understanding they need to tailor intelligence and METOC to the specific needs of each air platform. The SITC is a four-week course, and the students recently completed their second block of instruction.
“The goal of (Block II) is mostly to get the students spun up so they are trained on all air-specific intelligence-related matters, so they can better support their squadrons,” said Capt. Bridget Ajinga, the course director and a Weapons and Tactics Instructors course-certified intelligence officer at Marine Aircraft Group 14.
Cpl. Samantha Stanko, a student in the course, said the diversity of assets and capabilities available to commanders in the field demands that personnel responsible for making timely, well thought out recommendations be intimately familiar with the available options.
“As an intel analyst, it’s our job to know a little bit of everything,” said Stanko, an intelligence analyst with Marine Aircraft Group 13. “If we have certain assets available to us and we know the limits and capabilities of each, we can know which aircraft is the best for the job.”
METOC, whose job it is to forecast weather and determine the impacts of the environment on aviation operations, fuses its information with intelligence. This is used to develop a comprehensive view of the battle space and is critical to planning and decision making. The environment plays a major role in both friendly and enemy force mobility, tactics, the types of weapons employed, as well as their capabilities and limitations.
“Weather has such a huge affect on operations, not just for our pilots but for ground guys and everybody in the military,” said Stanko. “In intel, our job is to know the bad guys and what the bad guys are doing. Weather affects on the environment and the terrain have a huge affect on where bombs go and if the enemy can engage our aircraft, all kinds of things.”
It is METOC’s job to provide pilots and the analysts with detailed weather information tailored to each type, model or series of aircraft and analysis on how it will affect their mission.
“In forecasting, every type of aircraft has different limitations as to what they can operate under weather-wise and understanding what their limitations and capabilities are helps us generate a forecast specifically for the type of aircraft,” said Cpl. Ryan Westforth, a weather forecaster assigned to Marine Air Traffic Control Detachment B, Marine Air Control Squadron 2, at Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C.
The course also focuses on the important relationship between the analysts and aircrew. The job of the analyst is to set the aircrew up for success, and the job of the aircrew is to set the Marines on the ground for success. The training course uniquely integrates intelligence and operations using the Aviation Training System and the state-of-the-art Marine Aviation Training Support Sites. Specifically, during the course’s culminating exercise, students will work hand in hand with the pilots to plan strikes, close air support, and other missions that require a higher level of understanding and detailed planning of operations and intelligence.
“It’s really good training,” said Cpl. Megan Southworth, an intelligence analyst with Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 4. “This course breaks it all down. It tells you everything you need to know about air intel and what the aircrew expect from you.” She said that in the United States, her support for the squadron is mostly electronic security. During deployments overseas, she shifts to provide intelligence on the missions VMAQ-4 flies.
The Marines who crafted the training intend for the benefits to reach beyond VMAQ-4 and other Cherry Point squadrons. The experts hope it will standardize post-military occupational specialty school knowledge, skills and abilities for intel and METOC across all Marine aircraft wings.
“The big-ticket item is standardizing air intelligence training across the Marine aircraft wings, so we’re starting this here with 2nd MAW and we’re hoping that 1st and 3rd MAW are going to also start the same kind of curriculum based on the draft (training and readiness) manual,” said Ajinga. “That way you have checks in the box to make sure all Marines are up to a certain level of training.”
The course will conclude March 8.