ANDERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242, Marine Wing Support Squadron 171, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12, Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, Combat Logistics Company 36 and other elements of Marine Aircraft Group 12 assigned to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, journeyed to Anderson Air Force Base, Guam, to participate in Exercise Valiant Shield 2016 from Sept. 12 – 23, 2016.
As part of a biennial field training exercise, Valiant Shield brings together service members from across the U.S. Pacific Command to employ a wide range of capabilities and demonstrate the inherent flexibility of American joint forces.
“The biggest thing is the interoperability,” said Marine Corps Col. Daniel Shipley, MAG-12 commanding officer. “We train within our own services, but now is the opportunity to train with other branches combined . . . so it’s really a chance to practice our interoperability, tactics, techniques and procedures to prove our ability to do that together.”
The MAG-12 “Ready Group” will work alongside members of the Army, Navy and Air Force in order to develop skills that enhance maritime interdiction, defensive counter-air operations, personnel recovery, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, anti-submarine warfare, and command and control.
“We will execute missions that represent the span of the aviation combat element and integrate with the joint forces for aviation operations,” said Marine Corps Lt. Col. William Millett, MAG-12 operations officer. “We will have joint vignettes, executing very large and complex missions. At the squadron level, it’s an exercise in integration where we will perform standard missions and then apply those to larger aircraft formations, multiple targets, and multiple waves of fighters managing fuel and assets over time.”
Assets of the Ready Group will execute these missions on Guam and around the Marianas Island Range Complex, allowing maximum projection capabilities in a large venue with all participating services.
“It’s larger scale and that opportunity is very hard to replicate in daily operations at the home field,” said Millett. “This exercise is an opportunity to show our capacity to project power by taking small islands and pushing that power forward.”
Operating under the control of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, MAG-12 elements will also conduct combined arms and air-to-ground unit level training to increase pilot and joint terminal attack controller proficiency and training readiness.
“We will test our readiness and show what we can do,” said Shipley. “This is a good opportunity to work with the ground side Marines and show, as the aviation element, we are there to support the operations.”
The 1st Marine Aircraft Wing will serve as the forward command element for III Marine Expeditionary Force and also function as the Commander Task Force 79, which serves as the Marine Expeditionary Brigade for the Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet.
Seventh Fleet is the largest of the U.S. Navy’s forward deployed fleets and includes the Western Pacific and parts of the Indian Oceans.
III MEF units are a forward presence in the Pacific that enables rapid contingency response, therefore Valiant Shield refines the U.S. military’s ability to present a seamless joint force that can respond to contingency in a timely manner from the highest to lowest command structure.
“When you think of the U.S. military in the Pacific, you want credible combat power,” said Navy Rear Adm. Russell Allen, U.S. 7th Fleet deputy commander and Valiant Shield exercise director. “The true test of a force is its ability to detect, track, and engage targets with live sensors and weapons systems. The U.S. military does that more than anyone. Simply stated, the experience our forces gain from working together helps us to provide the best possible support to our allies, partners, and friends in the region for a wide variety of missions, when and where they’re needed most.”
MAG-12 will establish an aviation combat element capable of conducting the six functions of Marine aviation in order to support III MEF objectives during Valiant Shield.
The air power to a Marine Air-Ground Task Force is established from the ACE and includes all aircraft, their pilots and maintenance personnel, and those units necessary for aviation command and control. It is one of the four core elements of a MAGTF, which encompasses the principal organization for all missions across the range of military operations.
As the 6th iteration, the Valiant Shield series is aimed at developing a pre-integrated joint force that will engage the MAG-12 squadrons thoroughly.
“With this real-world training, we are getting back to our roots and focusing on our specialties,” said Shipley. “Now is a chance to flex our muscles and see what we can really do.”