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    VMAQ-4 Seahawks roar above Pacific sky

    An EA6B Prowler aircraft sits ready to conduct training missions at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea

    Photo By Master Sgt. Charles McKelvey | An EA6B Prowler aircraft sits ready to conduct training missions at Osan Air Base,...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. Charles McKelvey 

    Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni

    MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan - Electronic countermeasures: This is the mission of the EA-6B Prowler operated by Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 4 currently participating in the Unit Deployment Program aboard Marine Corps Air Station, Iwakuni.

    “VMAQ-4 is a standard Prowler squadron and our mission is electronic warfare in support of the Marine air ground task force,” said Maj. Bart Macmanus, VMAQ-4 executive officer. “What we provide is radar and communication jamming for airborne and ground forces.”

    With a third of their current deployment in the books, VMAQ-4, also known as the “Seahawks,” has increased not only their operational tempo, but also their operational effectiveness.

    “We are trying to do a lot of training,” said Macmanus. “This is the first time Prowlers have been out here in a while, so we are trying to reeducate people, mainly on the capabilities that we bring to the fight.”

    In the six-year gap since the aircraft's presence here, the roar of the Prowlers fell silent over the Western Pacific’s sky, mainly due to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    ”There is a generation who has done nothing but (Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom) and they never got the chance to do a UDP,” said Macmanus. “I’m lucky in that my first deployment was a UDP out here, in 2004, and now I’m back out here 9 years later.”

    Although now fully employed, the unit's mission in OEF and OIF varied from what the Marine Corps now expects of its electronic experts.

    “Being back out here is a totally different mindset and it’s good to get us back out here,” said Macmanus. “It is more dynamic out here and it requires a lot more work to understand your mission set.”

    Macmanus also said one of the unique opportunities of this UDP is the ability to work with other military branches, such as the U.S. Air Force, stationed at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea.

    “With the vacuum that’s been here since the Prowlers have been gone, there’s a lot of resident knowledge that has been lost,” said Macmanus. “So, we’re just trying to reeducate the masses on what are our capabilities and what we bring out here, not just with the Air Force, but the Marines as well.”

    Some of those Marines learning wear a Seahawk patch of their own. The squadron departed with many Marines deploying for the first time.

    “One of the deployment’s advantages is the Marines’ ability to experience a higher operations tempo without the pressure of supporting combat missions,” said Gunnery Sgt. Joshua C. Rothman, VMAQ-4 quality assurance chief.

    “We do the same whether our aircrew is flying actual combat missions or flying training missions,” said Rothman. “We provide (the aircrew) with a safe aircraft to do whatever their mission is. Jets break the same whether they’re in training or in combat, so our work schedule is based off of what they need to get done.”

    The increased workload allows junior Marines hands-on experience and gives them an opportunity to maintain the aircraft under the eyes of experienced Marines.

    “In Iraq or Afghanistan you’re not going to let your junior guy sit there and try to figure out what the problem is,” said Rothman. “Here, although they’re training missions and it’s important to get (the aircraft) out, there is a little more time. You can let that new guy sit there and try to figure it out by himself. You’re going to supervise him and make sure he is not doing anything unsafe, but it’s a great learning experience.”

    The Seahawks focus mainly on training. However, Q-4 Marines are always ready to execute their mission of jamming enemies. While it’s not putting rounds down range, their presence in the combat arena is certainly felt.

    “You can’t really see the effects,” said Macmanus. “It’s not like there is a bomb going ‘boom.'”

    The effects refer to a varying level of electronic warfare delivered by the hands of as many as three electronic counter measure officers in the Prowler cockpit.

    “There is a huge shift in the mindset, going away from kinetic fires and dropping bombs,” Macmanus said. “Sometimes the targets are easier to attack electronically than they are kinetically.”

    While absent in the Pacific, the Prowler’s reputation became comparable to an old novel with a bookmark. The Seahawks now re-open that book and prepare to write new chapters, almost 45 years in the making.



    Date Taken: 04.11.2013
    Date Posted: 04.10.2013 20:10
    Story ID: 104976

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