News: Going out with flare: XO’s last flight
Story by Pfc. Christopher Johns
SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. - Lt. Col. Wes Spaid, the executive officer and pilot of the MV-22B Osprey with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 165 “White Knights,” flew his last flight with the squadron over San Clemente while performing Ground Threat Reaction training March 15.
After flying the Osprey for six years and watching the plane’s program evolve, Spaid is proud to say that he has supervised dozens of missions like GTR with the squadron.
Spaid assisted with the MV-22B when it first arrived to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Training Squadron 204 on the East Coast, then came to help VMM-165 when the Osprey first came to the West Coast.
“I’ve seen the plane and [the Marines] come a long way; it has been an honor to be a part of that historical transition,” said the Dallas native.
On his last flight, Spaid and his fellow crew members performed Ground Threat Reaction training.
“[The training] focuses on how to defeat ground-based radar and infrared weapon systems,” explained Spaid. “It provides us survivability. If we’re transporting supplies or troops across the battlefield, it allows us to make it where we need to be. This training also promotes good aircrew coordination and training on how to defeat those weapon systems.”
The pilot wanted to get instructors and peers up to date on GTR, passing on knowledge and experience he shared from using this very training in combat, explained Spaid.
This training is important to help prepare Marines for the stresses of combat situations where pilots and crews must know exactly what to do.
“This gets [air crews] ready for the challenges of hostile theatre,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel Plank, an aerial observer for the training flight and the VMM-165 airframes quality assurance representative. “The flares coming at us from the ground during the training are exactly what it’s going to look like in combat, so we release our flares to sort of confuse the enemy’s weapons systems.”
In releasing the flares, the crews hope to neutralize the enemy’s infrared weapons and heat-seeking capabilities by creating a large amount of different heat signatures for the missiles to follow.
Marines on the ground have to know they will receive the supplies and troops they need to get the job done – even if the aircraft itself becomes a target. This very reason is why VMM-165 trains using GTR – to make sure it’s business as usual for every flight, even in combat.
“This gives [Marines on the ground] confidence that we can make it to them and either get them out, give them supplies or drop off more troops,” said Plank, a Lompoc, Calif., native. “This is a standard training flight for us. This is us doing business; we take care of this because it’s all about the guys on the ground, and we’re here for them.”
The purpose of Ground Threat Reaction training is to make sure pilots and crews alike know what is required to get the job done, shooting flares, communicating with the pilots and giving them warnings about incoming projectiles and to make sure Marines come home safe at the end of the day.