KADENA AIR BASE OKINAWA, Japan --
Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 225, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 began live-fire, unit-level training here Monday.
“The purpose of this training is to increase our basic air-to-ground close air support and forward air controller airborne capabilities,” said Lt. Col. Dan Goodwin, VMFA(AW)-225 commanding officer. “This is a way of getting the whole band together, and everyone is getting a piece of the pie.”
VMFA(AW)-225 falls under the Unit Deployment Program.
The UDP was created by the commandant of the Marine Corps to reduce the number of unaccompanied tours and improve unit continuity by deploying units to the Western Pacific for approximately six months.
“We are a two-seat squadron. Having one pilot focus on flying and the other on the weapons system helps make us more speedy, accurate and overall more efficient,” said Capt. Lamar Harris, VMFA(AW)-225 pilot.
Since Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, where VMFA(AW)-225 is deployed to, has no live ranges, F/A-18 fighter attack squadrons cannot use live ammunition during flight training in the area.
“They have one area where we can simulate (live fire), but we can’t actually drop or deliver ordnance,” said Goodwin. “You can only do so much with a simulator without going out and actually testing the real system.”
The first two weeks of training, VMFA(AW)-225 will focus on close air support and forward air controller airborne training in conjunction with 3rd Recon and HMM-262.
This training prepares units for the situation where the forward battlefield isn’t visible to ground units.
F/A-18 Hornets can provide information on forward terrain or deliver ordnance to allow ground combat elements to extend their reach.
3rd recon is deploying soon to my understanding, so we’re helping train their tactical air control party, said Goodwin. “And they’re helping us because they’re providing mortars, and they’re giving us the assets we need to train with to get our qualifications of forward air controller airborne.”
To wrap up the training, VMFA(AW)-225 pilots will get a chance to fire long-range explosive ordnance on some of the Okinawa ranges.
“The last week we’re focusing on air-to-air long range strike type operations with a live heat seeking missile,” said Goodwin.