TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Benson Yu is a 0621 Radio Operator participating in the Marine Air Ground Task Force Distributed Maneuver Exercise (MDMX), at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, as a member of 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense (LAAD) Battalion, Marine Air Control Group 38.
A first-generation American, Yu is the first Marine in his family. "I joined the Marine Corps to be more independent," said the 21-year-old Monterey Park, California native. "I'm the first one in my family to serve. I see it as a way to give back to the country that took my family in."
Yu’s parents immigrated from China to California, where he was born. "I'm proud of the culture my parents raised me in. But as far as mission accomplishment, I'm first and foremost a Marine."
Today, Yu fills a critical role within the LAAD community. "My job is to enable LAAD gunners to communicate with higher command and all the other agencies that we work with. I'm always looking for the most efficient way to use the radios," Yu said. He sees the radio as one of the most powerful weapons on the battlefield, "You can't coordinate fires without radios. I'm proud of my MOS (military occupational specialty).”
Executing aerial defense with the FIM-92 stinger missile for over four decades, 3rd LAAD Battalion is adapting to meet potential future threats outlined in Force Design 2030. Based on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, 3rd LAAD provides close-in, low altitude, surface-to-air weapons fires in defense of Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) assets.
The battalion established a new battery in November 2022 and is integrating new technologies, including the Light Marine Air Defense Integrated System (LMADIS), which enables 3rd LAAD to detect, track, identify, and defeat aerial threats. Additionally, the new capabilities will enable expeditionary counter-unmanned aerial systems operations in austere and isolated environments. During MDMX, the unit practiced working alongside adjacent Marine units.
MDMX is a three-day maneuver exercise that incorporates ground, air, and logistics operations. The training tests units' abilities to conduct combined-arms operations in a distributed environment to seize key terrain and set favorable conditions for the Joint Force to deliver decisive strikes at the time and place of its choosing.
MDMX is one exercise of the Marine Corps' Service Level Training Exercises (SLTE). A series of five exercises, SLTE is designed to prepare the MAGTF to respond to crises and conflicts around the globe by increasing their ability to integrate actions across the full range of military operations.
For Yu, MDMX is crucial training that keeps his LAAD Marines combat-ready: "This exercise helps us become more proficient at our jobs. Hard, realistic training gives us a taste of what it'll be like when we're actually out there fighting."
One battle drill 3rd LAAD executes during MDMX is support to forward arming and refueling points (FARPs).
"We're practicing to offload a CH-53 and roll right into an air defense for a FARP," Yu said.
Part of the Marine Corps' modernization efforts include developing tactics, techniques, and procedures for logistics in a contested environment. LAAD's unique surface-to-air fires capabilities establish force protection for vital assets and enable logistics Marines to safely conduct aircraft refuel and resupply operations.
The result of impeccable MAGTF integration, Yu describes the FARP experience as "fitting in."
"This gives us the opportunity to not only practice our own MOS, but also see how other units work, and show how we fit in as LAAD in their mission," Yu said.
The Marine Corps is most lethal when its people and assets embrace their fit in to the Marine Air Ground Task Force.