MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan --
Marine Air Control Squadron 4 Detachment Bravo recently completed Marine Air Traffic Control Mobile Team training at the flight line here July 21.
Master Sgt. Thomas E. Kopp, MACS- 4 Detachment B staff noncommissioned officer in charge, said one of the biggest reasons for this training is to shorten the response time during disaster relief operations like Operation Tomadachi.
“When we have destruction like that, we can send teams to set up aircraft landing zones to get aircraft in and out to get support where it needs to go,” Kopp added.
Each six-man team is considered an essential part of a Marine Expeditionary Unit as every MEU has at least one team. Each team has the capability to set up expeditionary runways for use by C-130s or C-17s.
The runway is 60 feet wide and 3,000 feet long.
Each team is also capable of establishing a helicopter landing zone. The runways can be set up in remote locations in combat scenarios, during medical evacuation or for humanitarian aid.
The training allows the Marines to train for expeditionary operations in a garrison environment.
“The only other option we have is to go to Okinawa or Korea,” said Kopp. “It’s cheaper to keep the Marines here, and bring one C-130 out here than to go back and forth.”
Approximately 25 Marines took part in the training. The Marines were required to take classes on determining and establishing the length of the airfield and working with the Portable Radio Communications 117 radio before the practical application of training could begin.
“The MMT side of air traffic control is a very perishable skill,” said Gunnery Sgt. Joshua R. Hooten, team leader training instructor. “It’s very important for these guys to conduct this type of training so these skills don’t go away. We’ve got a lot of experienced guys out here, so we need to impart as much knowledge as we can.”
The instructors are trained by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma over a six-week period. The first two weeks are in-class lecture followed by four weeks of real time operations before they are certified to instruct and certify Marines for the teams.
“The course we do at MAWTS-1 is a lot like what we are doing here but on a larger scale,” said Hooten. “Also, a big portion of it is that we are in the same spaces as the pilots, so we’re actually a part of their planning.”
A C-130 from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 was used during the training. The Marines conducted their training on the flight line using red, green and white lights as guidance for the C-130. Each color served as a particular stage point for the C-130 as it took off and landed. The green lights served as the approach point, the red lights as the departure point and the white lights as the runway’s edge.
Several Marines served as pacers, dropping the lights every 100 meters as they set up the runway.
The C-130 performed several takeoffs and landings on the runway in rapid succession as the air traffic controllers communicated from the ground with the PRC-117s.
Communication is paramount in this training, especially in setting up the runway for the C-130 to land and takeoff, said Sgt. Richard A. Saenz, a MACS-4 Detachment B air traffic controller.
At the evening’s conclusion, the Marines critiqued their response time and how quickly they were able to set up and disassemble the runway.