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U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Gregory Ybarra, a UH-1Y crew chief with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 469, provides cover fire for Marines from 3rd Marine Regiment during a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel (TRAP) training mission as part of Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) 3-17 at Marine Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., May 17, 2017. ITX is a combined-arms training exercise enabling Marines across 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing to operate as an aviation combat element integrated with ground and logistics combat elements as a Marine air-ground task force. More than 650 Marines and 27 aircraft with 3rd MAW are supporting ITX 3-17. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. David Bickel)

Photo by Sgt. David Bickel

TRAP readiness: 3rd MAW assists 3rd Marines

24 May 2017 | Sgt. David Bickel 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

The trap exercise consisted of 3rd Marines recovering a simulated casualty from an aircraft mishap with the help of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 469, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 363 and Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314, each helping according to their capabilities. 
“Anytime we are flying, we set up a contingency plan…that’s where the TRAP team comes into play” said Capt. Joshua Gornto, a HMLA-469 UH-1Y pilot. “Today we had rescue vehicles, which were Ospreys carrying personnel with 3rd Marines, rescue vehicle escorts provided by HMLA (469) and finally a combat air patrol provided by VMFA-314. All these forces worked together to find the casualty, perform the extraction, and deliver them safely back home.”
Integration is the primary element both the GCE and ACE are working toward in ITX 3-17. Both the aviation combat element (ACE) and the ground combat element (GCE) work hand-in-hand, allowing both sections of the Marine air-ground task force (MAGTF) to accomplish a mission as a team.
“This training is extremely important,” said Gornto. “It’s a really great opportunity to work out all the kinks before both elements get deployed together. No element can work on its own.”
Without the ACE, the GCE would be forced to take longer routes, face terrain challenges which don’t affect aircraft, and leave themselves vulnerable to long range enemies only visible from the air.
“We can get ground guys where they need to be to engaging the enemy a lot faster than any ground vehicle can,” said Cpl. Austin Kinser, a VMM-363 tiltrotor crew chief. “We can drop troops on top of mountains and provide suppressive fire while they move in to recover the casualty. When they complete the mission, we can get them out of there twice as fast than if they were relying on ground transportation.”

In the event of a downed aircraft, the GCE of the TRAP team will assess the situation, recover casualties then attempt to recover the aircraft.
“As a pilot, when you’re in a situation where your aircraft went down, you want the confidence boost knowing that a TRAP team will be on its way and the ground Marines will get you out of there safe,” said Gornto. “It allows pilots to focus on what they have to do in a crash scenario without worrying about how they are going to get out of there.”
TRAP training exercises, like many other training evolutions during ITX, build more than just a cohesive MAGTF; they build comradery and confidence between the ACE and the GCE.
“ITX allows both elements to trust each other when they are forward deployed,” commented Gornto. “When we go in country and go live, I have complete faith that both elements will do exactly what they were supposed to do. That’s trust.”

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