News: Scarface provides aerial coverage for infantry Marines
Story by Cpl. Samuel A. Nasso
CAMP DWYER, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan — As Marines inserted to clear the insurgent bastion of Marjah, Regimental Combat Team 7, Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan, received consistent aerial support from the various aviation platforms of Marine Aircraft Group 40, MEB-Afghanistan.
Though each airframe played a different and vital role toward the successful insertion of ground forces, the mission of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367, MAG-40, was to protect fellow aviators and keep watch over the troops on the ground.
When the Marines of RCT-7 were inserted into Marjah, Feb. 13, via CH-53E "Super Stallion" helicopters from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 466 and CH-53D "Sea Stallions" from HMH-463, both air and ground crews were protected overhead by the AH-1W "Super Cobras" and UH-1Y "Yankees" of HMLA-367.
The Super Cobra is specifically designed to escort and provide close air support to troops on the ground, carrying a multitude of sensors and munitions to locate and destroy enemy positions. Flying in tandem was the new Yankee helicopter carrying a heavier payload of weaponry than the UH-1N "Huey" it replaced. In addition to close air support and aerial escort, the Yankee can deliver light cargo externally, perform as a command and control platform and provide surveillance to commanders on the ground.
Since the initial insert for Operation Moshtarak, the Marines on the ground have received constant overwatch and reliable close air support when needed from the squadron known as Scarface.
"We are familiar with the area now, the scheme of maneuver and are integrating with all of the ground forces, making sure they are good to go," said Capt. Ronald Chino, a Super Cobra pilot for Scarface.
Preparation and familiarization were the key ingredients for HMLA-367's success as they supported air and ground units during the initial insert in Marjah.
"We made sure we were familiarized with road names, buildings and local terrain and made laminated maps for our cockpits," said Chino. "We familiarized ourselves with call signs, our capabilities, our friendlies' capabilities, section tactics and safety measures."
Even with the enhanced capabilities of Scarface's aircraft, additional units were tasked with assisting the entire brigade during this operation. Squadrons such as Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 3 and Marine Attack Squadron 231 provided reliable information-gathering systems that allowed fellow squadrons, like Scarface, to gain positive identification of a target.
"It's gone well so far, we have provided reconnaissance, overwatch, caught IED placers and we've helped locate and identify the enemy," said Capt. Keith Bucklew, a Harrier pilot with VMA-231. "We provide all aspects of close air support."
Once the heavy-lift helicopters finished dropping off the infantry Marines and returned to base, Scarface instantly assumed an overwatch role by providing reconnaissance and close air support to the Marines below.
After the first 24 hours of the operation, HMLA-367 had flown more than 70 missions and totaled nearly 90 hours of flight time. With the initial insert complete, the mission of HMLA-367 continued both around Marjah and across southern Afghanistan.
Operation Moshtarak; RCS2010