News: 3rd MAW showcases helicopter firefighting capabilities
Story by Cpl. Jennifer Pirante
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - Third Marine Aircraft Wing Marines from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., participated in a Wildland Firefighting Exercise at Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 10.
The exercise was presented in the form of a demonstration to local military and fire departments as to what 3rd MAW, military assets, and local fire departments bring to the fight. The focus was to demonstrate effective communication between the coordinating elements and immediate response.
The exercise was a coordinated effort between Marine Corps Installations West, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Navy Region Southwest, Third Fleet, CAL FIRE and the San Diego County Sheriff's department.
The purpose of the exercise is to provide trained and immediate resources to combat wild fires if called upon. The exercise also serves to clarify roles of base units and assets, not only to the units involved, but also to the residents of California.
“We have a long relationship with the state and local fire departments,” said Brig. Gen. Vincent Coglianese, commanding general of MCIWEST. “This exercise is extremely important to continue to build on it and get better. That’s what we do as a military. We train for the worst and are able to respond with that training.”
The demonstration used one Marine Medium Helicopter Training Squadron 164 CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter, one Marine Heady Helicopter Squadron 465 CH-53E Super Stallion, two MH-60S "Knighthawks" from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadrons Three and Two One to demonstrate the Marine Corps' capabilities in the event of a severe wildfire in southern California.
“CAL FIRE representatives are the professionals here,” said Capt. Aaron A. Bohl, 3rd MAW G-3 fixed-wing fragger. “This is their main goal, this is their main job. So, all we are to do is augment in the event of a disaster that gets outside the realm of their capacity to handle it.”
Since May 2008, MCIWEST, 3rd MAW, and Navy Region Southwest have coordinated to conduct an annual Wildland Fire Exercise to prepare for California’s fire season in June.
“After the 2007 fire that affected the San Diego county area, the Marine Corps got involved, as well as the Navy, and we have integrated with all the other civilian and military assets to be able to provide this capability to augment the already awesome force of CAL FIRE.”
I Marine Expeditionary Force, MCIWEST, Navy Region Southwest
Units and fire departments prepared for the event during the past three months. Since February, CAL FIRE conducted ground school dates for aircrews, bucket maintenance and management, and continuous flight training and certification.
The exercise marked the final CAL FIRE certification of aircrews and provided vital training for 3rd MAW aircrews.