News: VMA-231 prepares to depart for El Centro
Story by Pfc. Cayce Nevers
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. - More than 120 Marines from Marine Attack Squadron 231 are preparing to depart Cherry Point next week to Naval Air Facility El Centro, Calif., so pilots and Marines can train in low-altitude conditions.
The Marines departing for El Centro will conduct air-to-surface heavy weapons training and routine maintenance for about one month.
“It is imperative that VMA-231 be prepared to deploy at a moment’s notice and the training afforded at NAF El Centro allows the squadron to train and fly with live ordnance, just as it would during an Expeditionary Operation,” said Capt. Eric A. Scherrer, quality assurance officer with VMA-231.
Capt. Andrew M. Thronberg, VMA-231 pilot and operations officer, said the Marines are prepared and enthusiastic for the evolution.
“Every single Marine in the squadron will get (military occupational specialty)-specific training and proficiency out of this.” Said Thornberg.
The training will allow the Marines to focus on low-altitude training in a desert environment.
“It is important because we got back from Afghanistan about three months ago. We had a lot of personnel turn over and we were executing very specific missions out there which were medium and high-altitude support,” said Thornberg. “With that being said a lot of us are not current and proficient in low-altitude work and general purpose munitions.”
Squadron Marines are already focused on making the most of the opportunity, according to Scherrer.
“VMA-231 has been focusing on basic air-to-surface sorties as well as maintenance department qualifications to ensure that our Marines and pilots will gain as much as possible from the training,” said Scherrer, “This training will build proficiency and confidence in the tactics, techniques and procedures that are required of a Marine attack squadron.”
This will also provide new Marines and Sailors the opportunity to receive realistic training in a deployed environment.
“We have had a lot of brand new maintainers check in, and a lot of them have never had the chance to operate around an aircraft that is combat loaded with big weapons; they have also never operated in a hot desert environment,” said Thornberg. “They will get to see it for the first time and get some training that they can’t get here at Cherry Point.”
The ability to maintain and increase proficiency is critical to the Corps’ expeditionary units being ready to go when the call comes, according to Scherrer.
“In a time of austerity, it is significant that the Marine Corps is able to maintain such a high readiness level and allows its units to conduct (deployments for training,)” said Scherrer. “This is a source of training that should never be lost.”