News: Marines execute mock rescue mission, culminates Exercise Mailed Fist
Story by Cpl. Tyler J. Bolken
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. – Hiding in the humid, dense forest of eastern North Carolina June 22, Capt. Nick M. Korent, posing as a downed U.S. Air Force F-15 pilot, found himself in a situation of survival, something pilots fear but train for – as was the case with Korent this day during a scenario-driven Tactical Recovery of Personnel or Aircraft training exercise.
This was the culminating operation of Mailed Fist, a week-long large-scale exercise geared toward training the Marine Corps’ East Coast aviation elements for its many missions, including moments like this.
During this scenario, Korent was in a hostile, unfamiliar environment, with little food, water and means of protection, but the radio in his hand provided a lifeline to a virtual air wing of support. Help was on its way.
Though not clearly visible, a team of nearly every model of aircraft in the Marine Corps’ arsenal was in the sky above Korent, including AV-8B Harriers and helicopter gunships that provided close-air support, an EA-6B Prowler to provide an electronic umbrella against foreign threats, a KC-130J Hercules to refuel the supporting aircraft and an MV-22B Osprey to serve as a back-up to two CH-53E Super Stallions. It was one of those Super Stallions that landed in a small clearing to pick Korent up. This escalating scenario tested one of Exercise Mailed Fist’s primary goals.
“This size exercise with these types of operations refines our aviation elements’ ability to operate together,” said Col. Kevin M. Iiams, the Aviation Combat Element commander for Exercise Mailed Fist. “We can never forecast what’s going to happen.”
The Marine Corps’ most recent high profile TRAP mission was in rescue of a downed U.S. Air Force pilot in Libya, March 2011.
“TRAP missions are one of the most important things we train for,” said Korent, an AH-1W Super Cobra pilot with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 467 and native of Houlton, Wis. “We don’t leave anyone of our own behind.”
In recent years, the Marine Corps has not been doing large-scale exercises like this one because of the focus on combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, explained Iiams, a native of New Orleans. It’s important to the Wing’s and Marine Corps’ mission because it integrates Marine aviation into integrated missions for large-force employment.
“The Marines are able to see all the other functions we do and haven’t been able to do,” said Iiams. “This exposes us to the rest of the spectrum of missions we could expect to do, should we go other places in the world.”
Some of the week’s major operations included a battalion-sized assault with more than 500 Marines at Camp Lejeune, a raid on an objective and the June 22 TRAP.
“Exercise Mailed Fist is another measure so that no matter what mission comes up the future, we have seen it and experienced it,” said Iiams. “We can focus on that, increase our training and capability in that area – then succeed in combat in that area.”