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    Shaping the battle in Afghanistan: Marine general reflects on coalition air efforts

    Shaping the battle in Afghanistan: Marine general reflects on coalition air efforts

    Photo By Gunnery Sgt. Ricardo Gomez | U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Justin Wells, crew chief, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464,...... read more read more



    Story by Cpl. Rashaun X. James 

    II Marine Expeditionary Force   

    CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- Since taking the helm of air combat operations in March, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) has supported more than 600 combat operations in southwestern Afghanistan.

    Additionally, the wing’s Marines and sailors have carried out thousands of other missions, including troop transport, aerial resupply, close-air support and tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel.

    Maj. Gen. Glenn M. Walters, the commanding general of 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), said he sees the Marine wing’s biggest accomplishment at the halfway point of its yearlong deployment as its ability to adapt to an ever-changing battle space.

    “About 18 months ago, it was all about Marjah, but now it’s more about Sangin and the fight up north,” said Walters.

    “The war has shifted,” added Walters of operations in 2011. “We as aviators have to adjust what we are doing to better support the fight up there.”

    In 2010, U.S. Marines and their coalition and Afghan partners carried out a joint offensive, Operation Moshtarak, to rout insurgents from Marjah in Helmand province’s Nad Ali district.

    But recent changes center on providing more support in volatile Sangin district. These include establishing forward arming and refueling points to maximize close-air support, creating a detachment of attack helicopters to provide cover for air ambulances, and moving Marine Corps unmanned aerial vehicles north to help in surveillance efforts.

    “We have operationally shaped the battle for what the conflict has presented us,” said Walters.

    Walters said he feels these battlefield moves better support ground forces, both operationally and logistically. As the battle on the ground shifts, he said, so too must air support.

    Partnership for Marines in Afghanistan isn’t limited to their own air and ground forces. Since the beginning of their increased presence in southwestern Afghanistan, U.S. Marines have not fought alone.
    The Marines of 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) live, work and fight side-by-side with coalition partners, particularly members of the British Armed Forces.

    “Working with the coalition has been great,” said Walters. “There would be no way we could have done all the things we’ve done without them.”

    Aircraft and support troops from the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and British Army also operate in southwestern Afghanistan with the Joint Aviation Group.

    “We are fully integrated into the MAW,” explained Royal Navy Lt. Cmdr. Gary Soar, the chief of staff of the British Joint Aviation Group. “The cooperation, interaction, and the way we share knowledge have definitely allowed us to learn from one another and adopt new methods,”

    “Working with U.S. Marines has been a privilege,” Soar added. “They do a fantastic job and are a very flexible and proactive outfit. Every one of their squadrons has been an absolute pleasure to work with.”

    The British and American forces also work daily with Afghan troops. While the Afghan National Army builds its aerial capabilities, they remain largely reliant on U.S. and coalition aircraft for operational, logistical and medical support.

    “The Afghan forces are treated just like any of the other coalition forces,” said Soar. “We help them out where we can. If someone needs helicopter support we’ll supply it.”

    Soar expressed that he looks forward to seeing continued integration between British and American air assets. He said the highlight of his tour so far has been the combined effort between U.S., British and Afghan forces to eliminate insurgent threats in the villages of Geresh district, Helmand province.

    “All of the planning on the air side was a joint planning effort between the British and Americans,” said Soar. “We used almost every Marine aviation platform and all of our U.K. aircraft for the initial infiltration. It was a big aviation assault that was a combined effort we would not have been able to do on our own.”



    Date Taken: 08.24.2011
    Date Posted: 08.24.2011 09:40
    Story ID: 75831

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