EL CENTRO, Calif. – More than 20 aircraft, 105 Marines and days of planning allowed Marine Aircraft Group 16 to facilitate a training exercise called Operation Desert Tantrum in the desert outside El Centro, Calif., March 14.
The MAG-16 operation involved 27 aircraft including 12 MV-22B Ospreys, 10 CH-53E Super Stallions, two UH-1Y Venoms, two AH-1W Super Cobras and a KC-130J Super Hercules setting up a forward area refueling point to simulate setting up a real FARP in combat.
Ospreys left Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., to transport infantry Marines with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, to the desert for the first phase of the operation – seizing a landing zone for 27 aircraft.
“We clear the potential site of any threats, such as improvised explosive devices and enemy forces,” said 1st Lt. Edward Miller, the executive officer of India Co., 3rd Bn, 1st Marines, and a Wood Dale, Ill., native. “Afterward, we provide security for the aircraft, both those providing fuel and those being refueled, so they can get in and out as quickly as possible. The security we provide allows aircraft to stay in the field longer without having to return to the forward operating base to refuel, giving us crucial support.”
This crucial support could be anything from providing ground vehicles fuel, and carrying supplies to aerial combat support and casualty evacuations.
Once the infantry Marines swept the area and secured the site, CH-53 Super Stallions entered the zone to land so crew chiefs could set up a FARP.
The Super Stallions delivered 5,000 gallons of fuel for AH-1W Super Cobras and UH-1Y Venoms with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369.
This refueling allowed HMLA-369 to carry out training while their usual refueling zone was occupied.
Crew chiefs packed up the site after refueling the Super Cobras and Venoms, then performed aerial refueling training of their own with a KC-130J Super Hercules from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352.
With all training completed, the first wave of the exercise returned to MCAS Miramar.
An exercise of this scope provides experience to pilots, crews and commanders.
“The planning that goes into this, the mindset and the drills we perform, will prepare us for when we get to do this in a (combat environment),” said Col. Patrick Gramuglia, the MAG-16 commanding officer.
Maj. Scott Trent, the MAG-16 executive officer and a West Hartford, Conn., native, expressed a sense of pride in his unit’s ability to prepare and execute this rare training in such a short amount of time.
“We haven’t done an exercise of this size in more than three years,” explained Trent. “All of our squadrons’ weapons and tactics instructors had nothing but a shell of a plan that I gave them, and four days to plan this exercise. They went at the task I presented them and made it possible for Desert Tantrum to happen. I couldn’t be more proud of the professionalism of the (instructors) who made this mission executable and safe.”