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Maj. Gen. Thomas L. Conant, the commanding general of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing takes a close look at the GAU-17 7.62 mm "Belly Gun" inside a MV-22 "Osprey" during his visit to Enhanced Mojave Viper, March 11. The aircraft belongs to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365, who spent three weeks training with 3rd MAW squadrons. (Official U.S. Marine Corps by Cpl. Christopher O'Quin/Released)

Photo by Cpl. Christopher O'Quin

Maj. Gen. Conant soars with 'Ospreys'

18 Mar 2010 | Cpl. Christopher O'Quin

Maj. Gen. Thomas L. Conant, the commanding general of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force, arrived here March 11 to see the results of a three-week training evolution during Enhanced Mojave Viper.

All deploying Marine must participate in Enhanced Mojave Viper, which is a three-week pre-deployment training exercise. This training evolution brought together squadrons from 1st, 2nd and 3rd MAW.

The training evolution marked the first time an MV-22 “Osprey” squadron stayed at the Combat Center and engaged in EMV. With Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232 training here, it also marked the first time an FA-18 Hornet squadron stayed for this type of training evolution since the mid-1990s.

During his visit, Conant met with the squadron commanding officers and spoke with the participating Marines to get an understanding of how they benefited from training with ground combat elements prior to their deployments this year.

“There’s been a lot of good integration with other units that the newer Marines haven’t seen,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher R. O’Neil, a crew chief with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365, MAG-26, 2nd MAW. “You have to be flexible. We were flying Ospreys every day since we’ve been here.”

Third Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion and 9th Engineering Support Battalion trained with the Marines and sailors from Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369, Marine Wing Support Squadron 374, Marine Tactical Air Command Squadron 38, Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 and other elements of 3rd MAW. The squadrons flew a combined total of 569 sorties and accumulated 1194.3 flight hours during the training.

“We can conduct that face-to-face integration, that’s the real benefit of being out here,” said Col. Thomas D. Weidley, commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 39. “[Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367] is over there right now doing great things downrange in Afghanistan and it was the same way when they were here last August with the battalions that they are with now. Their bonds have never been stronger. That’s our bread and butter and that’s what we live for, supporting that guy on the ground doing anything we can.  It helps when you have those personal relationships.”

Conant wrapped up his visit with a tour of the hangars and flew in the Osprey.

“This visit was great; this is where we need to be training all the time, not just for EMV, but this whole range complex gives our aviators a chance to see something different,” said Conant.  “Now what we are seeing here is integration of East Coast and West Coast aviation units just like it is forward.”

After Conant left, the Marines had their work cut out for them as they prepared to head back to their respective installations over the next several days. The Marines and sailors of 3rd MAW will deploy throughout the year, taking with them countless hours of training at the Combat Center to the rugged mountains of Afghanistan.


3rd Marine Aircraft Wing