Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. -- 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing participated in Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) 3-17, a Marine air-ground task force (MAGTF) training evolution, at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, from April 26 through June 3, 2017.
“The main focus of ITX 3-17 is to train as a [special purpose] MAGTF to prepare for possible combat deployments,” said Lt. Col. David Joseforsky, the Marine Air Control Group (MACG) 38 operations officer. “This exercise allows us to test our ability to integrate the command element, ground combat element (GCE), aviation combat element (ACE), and logistics combat element. MACG-38's main focus is supporting the ACE Commander with aviation command and control, and to provide the integration between the GCE and ACE.”
During ITX 3-17, 3rd MAW not only provided support to ground units, but also focused on training geared toward the ACE.
“The wing’s involvement in ITX 3-17 is much heavier than previous iterations,” said Lt. Col. James Cooper, the Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 11 operations officer, “In addition to basing all MAG-11 units, including tactical aircraft at the strategic expeditionary landing field (SELF), we have brought up a large ACE staff to help coordinate and integrate the squadrons with other elements of the MAGTF.”
This ITX iteration included a variety of training ranging from field aircraft refuel point (FARP) simulations to tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel (TRAP) exercises. With a greater MAW involvement during ITX 3-17, it was essential that flying squadrons, as well as support squadrons, had ample time to train in various areas.
“We have motor transport Marines participating in ITX along with combat engineers and aircraft refueling specialists,” said Sgt. Pedro Henriquez, a motor transport operator with Marine Wing Support Squadron (MWSS) 373. “When we are forward deployed, we can fill various billets outside our [military occupational specialty]. This opportunity prepares Marines for real-world scenarios that they wouldn’t be ready for without this training.”
Throughout this training, 3rd MAW worked with the 3rd Marine Regiment providing transportation, air support, and casualty evacuation capabilities vital in forward-deployed scenarios.
“Coming from an infantry Marine’s perspective, the primary focus of the Marine Corps is the rifle squad,” said 2nd Lt. Tyler Cerrato, a prior infantry machine gunner and the MWSS-373 Security Element Commander for ITX 3-17. “The catch is that without the abilities of aircraft providing support and giving infantry units the ability to insert into combat zones, we would be greatly hamstringed, forcing us to take more casualties and utilize a more difficult attack approach.”
“The value of a training event like ITX lies in the unique ability for our squadron to directly work with and for an infantry battalion, in conditions that simulate combat,” said Capt. Charles Kuhnmuench, a UH-1 Huey pilot with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 469. “The operational tempo that we experience here is unlike what we experience in garrison, and comes as close to combat as we can realistically make it.”
The nature of training provided throughout ITX 3-17 gave both the GCE and the ACE simulated experiences that translate directly to integrated MAGTF operations on the front lines.
“ITX 3-17 has a goal to increase the combat capability of the MAGTF,” mentioned Cooper. “MAG-11 and ultimately 3rd MAW's focus is not only increasing deployment readiness, but also capturing lessons learned and providing all invested a constructive debrief on how to make future iterations of ITX a more effective and efficient tool for training the ACE. This allows us to be a lethal element to the MAGTF.”
Throughout ITX, squadrons within the ACE as well as units from the GCE worked together to build a greater MAGTF, giving Marines from both elements a sense of security when working with one another.
“It’s really great to sit at a table and directly show a regimental commander what you can bring to the fight,” said Maj. Mike Walsh, a pilot training officer with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314. “ITX allows both the ACE and the GCE to better understand the capabilities each element possesses as well as practice MAGTF integration which will directly affect future deployments.”