HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii --
Fifteen Marines with Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533 and Marine Aircraft Group 12 landed here Jan. 8 as an advance party to support and prepare for exercise Lava Viper 2011.
Lava Viper is an exercise implemented to establish unit cohesion and squadron readiness in a forward deployed environment.
The mission of Lava Viper 2011 is to provide assault support aviation services to 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines while simultaneously enhancing and sustaining MAG-24’s combat readiness and warfighting capabilities.
VMFA(AW)-533 is slated to provide close-air support as well as support Marine Air-Ground Task Forces during the exercise.
According to Capt. Kyle Haire, weapons systems training officer with VMFA(AW)-533, there were a lot of moving parts involved in the preparation and planning of the exercise.
Prior to the exercise, the main objective was to establish effective communication and workspace, and make sure equipment was available to accomplish the mission.
“It requires a lot of coordination,” said Haire. “We’re getting ready to provide close air support to help (1st Battalion, 3rd Marines) facilitate their training and work directly with the Marines.”
The Marines continued to employ operational risk management and applied oversight to ensure the effectiveness of the exercise before things get rolling.
Gunnery Sgt. James Walker, ordnance staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge with VMFA(AW)-533, said one of the most important elements of preparing for an exercise is establishing rules and procedures.
“As (advanced echelon), my role is to coordinate with our Air Force counterparts supporting us from Hickam and also our Marine counterparts supporting us from (Kaneohe Bay),” he said. “The first thing we do is establish rules and procedures for those guys in regards to things we can and cannot do out here.”
Once the advanced party coordinated workspace, storage availability and communication between Kaneohe Bay and Hickam Air Force Base, it was time to stage gear.
“We can’t do our job without the gear we need,” said Walker. “It’s good to know that stuff was already here before the aircraft and personnel got here. Once we get ready to kick off operations and start rolling, everything should already be set up and in place.”
According to Sgt. Kyle Schneider, ground support equipment with VMFA(AW)-533, it is vital to the mission that the unit is supported by the gear supplied.
Prior to the mission, Marines with VMFA(AW)-533 are tasked to make sure all the gear is where it needs to be.
The hardest part about coordinating gear is transporting it to the desired location, said Schneider.
“If we don’t have the gear, the jets don’t fly,” he added. “We have to make it happen and find gear to make it work because if something ever goes down on the jets, they need gear to operate.”
Once the VMFA(AW)-533 Hornets land in Hickam for exercise Lava Viper, the work will be non-stop, but with all elements properly in place, operations are expected to run smoothly.