ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam —Aviation ordnance technicians with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12 handled live munitions for operations during Exercise Valiant Shield 16 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Sept. 14, 2016.
Valiant Shield is a U.S.-only, biennial field training exercise that employs a wide range of capabilities to include the expeditionary use of ordnance for real-world proficiency in operations.
“We are providing the participating squadrons the ability to fire and fly munitions,” said Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Brandon Morgan, MALS-12 staff non-commissioned officer in charge. “In the grand scheme of things it’s the ability to use the munitions to conduct joint operations with other forces and practice real-world scenarios.”
Marines gained real-world experience preparing AGM-88 High Speed Anti-Radar Missiles, Joint Direct Attack Munitions with various guided bomb unit nomenclatures and Improved Tactical Air Launch decoys for use during regular sorties, a sinking exercise, a quickstrike advanced aerial mine demonstration, and other strike missions.
The mission essential tasks for MALS-12 aviation ordnance systems technicians are to account for, stow, maintain, assemble and deliver a host of airborne weapons commodities to the flying squadrons of Marine Aircraft Group 12.
This is fundamental during Valiant Shield 16 as MAG-12 is the established aviation combat element for this iteration, which includes all of their pilots, maintenance personnel, and those units necessary for aviation command and control such as aviation ordnance.
“Air-to-ground integration and maneuver warfare are the essence of how Marines dominate battles,” said Chief Warrant Officer Brad Kirby, MALS-12 assistant ordnance officer. “The service we provide to the flying squadrons enables the squadron commander the ability to support ground operations, which invariably leads to the ground commander having greater freedom of maneuver.”
Working alongside MALS-12 Marines are members of the Air Force, Army and Navy who also used similar weaponry to conduct missions such as the sinking exercise; a live-fire mission aimed at developing proficiency in tactics, targeting and live firing against a target at sea.
“Today we were range clearing for the SINKEX, making sure no one was in the way and everyone involved stayed safe,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Carid Stovill, a patrol wing officer for Patrol Squadron Eight and P-8A Poseidon pilot for the SINKEX. “We are here as a safety observer. Everything we talk about doing, we are doing here and when we practice with multiple services together and practice communication . . . this is how it is going to be in real-world scenarios.”
P-3 Orion’s and P-8 Poseidon’s provided Naval oversight for the explosive event. This not only presented exercise safety, but allowed other branches to work together in an aggressive effort to sink the decommissioned USS Rentz (FFG 46).
Kirby added that aviation ordnance is a class of supply that requires special handling. Instead of delivering parts, aviation ordnance delivers weapons and weapons systems necessary for employment by the flying squadrons.
“At the commencement of flight operations our footprint on the flight line is usually small, but as the exercise progresses we typically find ourselves working around the clock either delivering weapons to the Combat Aircraft Loading Area or assembling weapons for the next day’s sorties,” said Kirby.
The aviation combat element contributes to the air power of a MAGTF and enables a forward presence in air, land and sea.
“Without aviation ordnance, there’s no real reason to have jets,” said Marine Corps Cpl. Gregory Voss, MALS-12 aviation ordnance technician. “Back at the home front, we are always working and so basically we are doing the same thing out here . . . Not a lot of people get to work with things that go ‘boom’ and we do it on a daily basis.”
Throughout Valiant Shield, MALS-12 aviation ordnance technicians will continue delivering support for MAG-12 elements, providing the fire power that empowers this exercise fully in the aviation realm.
“VS16 offers a great opportunity for the Marines to get hands on experience with some of the more advanced and rare weapon systems which are not inherently utilized during fleet squadron training.”
Traveling from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, MALS-12 and other MAG-12 squadrons are working together in Valiant Shield to refine the military’s ability to present a seamless joint force and respond to any contingency in a timely manner.
“I love the comradery,” said Voss. “It’s long hours . . . but it’s definitely worth it . . . and I guarantee you can ask the other guys and they’d say the same because they know we are making a definite impact.”