News: Aviation Marines support MARSOC at Exercise Raven 14-01
Story by Lance Cpl. Brytani Musick
FORT IRWIN, Calif. - Marines of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 773 participated in training exercise Raven 14-01 along with their Reserve counterparts at National Training Center Fort Irwin, Calif. during the month of November.
Exercise Raven is an aviation exercise designed to provide close-air support training to Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command in preparation for their upcoming deployment. This exercise helps MARSOC’s training by providing close-air support, radio communication and emergency extract, simulating the real-life requirements they could face in while deployed.
This is Raven’s second iteration after its start in 2012.
“It’s a pretty big footprint for us,” said Sgt. Maj. Amman Catalan of Marine Aircraft Group 49 Detachment C, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing based at Belle Chasse, La. “It gets a lot of Marines out of their element, out of the normal day-to-day basis to actually perform their MOS in a semi-combat environment.”
Catalan said the best part of the exercise is seeing all the Marines come together, finding out their own capabilities and seeing the hard work they are putting in.
HMLA-773 is broken into three detachments in different states – New Jersey, Georgia, and Louisiana. Catalan said combining all three detachments for an exercise like this is a rare opportunity. “The cohesion of the unit is very tight,” Catalan added.
“Every time we pack up and leave our home training center, we here at 773 take it as an opportunity to learn. Doubly so for us as Red Dogs, since we have three sites, time we can spend together as a squadron is time well spent,” said Lt. Col. Kyle Burress, HMLA-773 Commanding Officer based at Robins Air Force Base, Ga.
Aviation requires a significant amount of behind-the-scenes work. For every one hour of flight time there are eight hours of maintenance that have to go into the aircraft. Before that work can even begin Marines need tools, fluids, wires, paint, and hundreds of other items that need to be prepared. While this is going on Marines are performing other functions in the administration, operations, and other sections. So, for one hour of flight time in one of the squadron’s AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters or UH-1N Huey’s, it literally takes hundreds of hours of hard work and cooperation.
“Marines are phenomenal,” said Catalan. “They’ll work all day just to get a bird up in the sky.”
While most of the mechanics, administrative and logistical personnel were active-duty, the pilots were Reserve Marines.
The Reserve and active-duty Marines had seamless coordination while working together, according to Catalan.
“Interaction between the active-duty and Reserve Marines is always a great opportunity for everyone involved. For the Reserve Marines, the MOS training received is critical,” Burress agreed.
“While our commitments overseas may be winding down, there are still, and probably always will be, Marines deployed overseas and away from their families. This was our opportunity to support them prior to deploying,” he said.
The Reserve and active-duty Marines of HMLA-773 built strength as a unit, gained unique training in an uncommon environment, and learned valuable operational skills as each day passed during exercise Raven 14-01.