TINIAN, Northern Mariana Islands --
Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 arrived Aug. 22 and 31 on Tinian for Exercise Valiant Shield 2014, which is scheduled to begin Sept. 15.
Valiant Shield is a biennial exercise which focuses on training that enables real-world proficiency in sustaining joint forces through detecting, locating, tracking and engaging units at sea, in the air, on land, and in cyberspace in response to a range of mission areas.
During the nine-day period between arrivals, Marines prepared for the exercise by clearing multiple acres of overgrown vegetation from the flightline and outlying areas, and readying the gear, according to Capt. Kevin M. Wheeler, the aviation ground support detachment officer-in-charge with MWSS-171, Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
“In 10 days we have been able to unload over a couple hundred pieces of gear off of a ship that came from Iwakuni,” said Wheeler. “We have multiple camps that we are operating here in Tinian, and MWSS-171 has been the lead unit in transporting and fueling that equipment, and supporting the Marines that are out here.”
Marines also prepared an area for a forward operating base.
“The biggest thing Tinian provides is the space for us to set up our equipment to build up the forward operating base,” said Wheeler. “We have a couple training areas in Japan with the Japan Self-Defense Force, and they are a huge help to us, but here we have no other competing units for training areas.”
Laying out tents and establishing infrastructure for living and operations was also necessary for creating a FOB, according to Staff Sgt. Timothy Cruz, the engineer assistant chief with the squadron.
Lance Cpl. David Willey, an engineer assistant for the squadron, is responsible for preparing and maintaining a well-established living environment.
“For this mission, we are responsible for quality control,” said Willey. “For this, we are making sure everything is exactly where it needs to be.”
One of the missions of Marine wing support squadrons is to build forward operating bases and forward arming and refueling points, according to Wheeler.
“We are able to deploy anywhere, at any time, and establish a site where aviation ground support can support the warriors in the air,” said Wheeler. “Tinian is a perfect training area to do that.”
Wheeler said some of the training to take place includes air base ground defense, which is something that MWSS-171 does not have a lot of opportunities to conduct, according to Wheeler.
“171’s goal here in Tinian is to exercise and exemplify what an MWSS is,” said Wheeler. “We are able to deploy anywhere, at any time, and establish a site where aviation ground support can support the warriors in the air.”