News: MACG-28 musters for MISTEX
Story by Lance Cpl. Tyler J. Bolken
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. - To resemble a combat outpost in Afghanistan, Marine Air Control Group 28 arranged tents and portable workspace units on the grounds around its headquarters at Cherry Point for a pre-deployment training evolution dubbed Marine Air Command and Control System Integrated Systems Training Exercise, or MISTEX, June 15-17.
For MISTEX, MACG-28 pulled together all of its subordinate units and began integrating the aviation combat element battle staff. The overall mission for the agencies within MACG-28 is to collectively ensure all aircraft support and requests are made to accommodate troops on the ground.
Col. Jeff L. Merchant, the commanding officer of MACG-28, said this exercise enables team building and training.
Nothing can mock the Middle East’s dusty sand or blistering heat, but MISTEX, consisting of actual data and occurrences from Operation Enduring Freedom, is a virtual Afghanistan from a training perspective.
The Marines trained in tents with large monitors displaying computer-generated events from OEF. Each scenario was realistically based on recorded events from Afghanistan, and the Marines had to react accordingly.
2nd Lt. Martha A. Hiett, a Tactical Air Command Center, or TACC, officer of MACG-28, explained how the exercise is made up of authentic aircraft operations from an air tasking order used during OEF.
“We’re seeing the same aircraft, same air space, same missions, air support requests and joint tactical air requests,” explained Hiett. “We’re training people who have never been to Afghanistan to do the same types of missions and see the same types of things we’ve done over there.”
Cpl. Mathew M. Sakellaris, air support network operator in the Direct Air Support Center, or DASC, with Marine Air Support Squadron 1, explained all air requests usually go through the DASC first.
“We always get the immediate stuff, like troops in contact,” Sakellaris said.
Troops on the ground request an air strike or a medical evacuation by radio to their unit. Then the unit messages the DASC, who then notifies the TACC.
“We try to receive and pass information as soon as possible,” emphasized Sakellaris. “There could be guys being shot at on the ground or someone possibly bleeding out.”
Sakellaris believes this exercise gives Marines a better test of what it’s actually like.
“One thing that is difficult to train for is all the surprises,” said Hiett. “Everyone has to be on the ball. You just can’t train for everything that can possibly happen in Afghanistan, unfortunately.”
This is the second training evolution for MACG-28’s crawl, walk, run approach in route to a scheduled 2011 deployment.
“We usually do a lot of drills internally,” said Sakellaris, “So an exercise like this helps everybody mesh together.”
MACG-28 is slated to head to Yuma, Ariz., this fall to continue its pre-deployment training.