EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- With temperatures near freezing and a strong wind blowing in from the mountains, ordnance Marines with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122 worked to get their F/A-18C Hornets ready for unit level training, named Distant Frontier, Sept. 3, 2014, aboard Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.
The Marines loaded MK-76 practice bombs for the squadron’s bombing mission while conducting ULT in “The Last Frontier” State.
The 25-pound MK-76 practice bomb is non-explosive and has a smoke cartridge to mark the impact point.
For the past six months, VMFA-122, nicknamed the “Werewolves,” has travelled throughout the Western Pacific as part of the unit deployment program with Marine Aircraft Group 12, stationed aboard Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. The squadron has participated in multiple ULTs, as well as large-scale exercises, most notable being Exercise Rim of the Pacific 2014.
“We just came from the Pacific Rim; we went to Japan and had hot and rainy weather, we went to Hawaii and had really hot and humid weather and now coming up here to Alaska really diversifies our training,” said Staff Sgt. Jerrod Gelbaugh, an ordnance technician with VMFA-122. “Operating in every type of climate gets us ready for anything in the future. You never know the next time you are going to deploy.”
There are more than 20 VMFA-122 ordnance Marines in Alaska, who are split into two crews, day and night.
For this mission, the night crew tested and loaded BRU-41 multiple ejector racks onto four F/A-18C Hornets and readied MK-76s for the day crew.
The day crew loaded the MK-76s onto the Hornets in the pre-dawn cold, hours before they launched for their training mission.
“The cold really didn’t make a difference, we still got the job done,” said Cpl. Jarred Latour, VMFA-122 ordnance day crew leader. “It’s cold for everyone and we know it, but we put on a couple more layers and kept pushing.”
The purpose of VMFA-122s ULT in Alaska is to integrate with Pacific Command squadrons to refine their tactics, techniques and procedures, while using the Joint Pacific Range Complex to improve core skills such as low altitude tactics and working with the Air Force to improve interoperability between services.
“This UDP has gotten guys a lot of experience, training them differently than back in (Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort),” said Latour. “We get to see how different branches work and even how the different bases work. We got a lot of good communication with other people, which makes us better overall.”
Alaska is the last stop for the Werewolves before heading home to MCAS Beaufort, S.C. and warmer weather.