CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan --
U.K. and U.S. forces work together on a daily basis to accomplish the coalition mission. To demonstrate how these two forces successfully come together as a team, aviation and ground forces completed Operation Aero Hunter Jan. 13.
The operation consisted of two phases. The first part was a patrol to flush insurgents out of a village; the second part was a series of snap vehicle check points along Route 1 near Forward Operating Base Ramrod, which is in Western Kandahar province.
U.K. ground troops of The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland, also known as 2 Scots, patrolled a village with overwatch provided by a UH-1Y Huey and an AH-1W Super Cobra, both from Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward). Marines from Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, circled overhead in an EH101 Merlin from 1419 Flight Squadron, Joint Aviation Group, 3rd MAW (Fwd), for extra support as 2 Scots pushed through the village.
During the first stage of the mission, Lima Company Marines supported 2 Scots as they patrolled and were there to catch any suspicious vehicles if they tried to leave the area, explained 2nd Lt. John Howarth, a platoon commander with Lima Company.
During the second stage, Lima Company Marines landed and stopped six cars along Route 1 at three separate VCPs. Though the Marines didn’t find anything suspicious in the vehicles, they were able to make the coalition presence known in the area and cause uncertainty for the insurgency.
“When you think about our ability to go anywhere we want, put guys on the ground and stop anyone we want with a snap VCP - it is impressive,” said Capt. Tom Duff, a Cobra pilot with HMLA-169. “[Lima Company] went to three separate places, which says to the [insurgents] on the ground that we can go anywhere we want, when we want.”
This is not the first Operation Aero Hunter; however, it is the first time U.K. and U.S. aviation and ground assets have integrated for a mission, explained U.K. Royal Air Force Sgt. Dan Allanson, a crewman from 1419 Flight Squadron, JAG, 3rd MAW (Fwd).
“We have worked with U.S. ground forces in the past, but this was the first with so much planning,” said U.K. Flight Lt. Patrick Hearne, a Merlin pilot with 1419 Flight Squadron. “It worked really well and hopefully we will be able to put together a [standard operating procedure] that will aid others with future missions.
“All the units involved have completed similar missions before, which helped,” Hearne continued. “Planning is the most important thing. If you get the plan right, everything will run smoothly and it did.”
The Merlin crew met with the Marine ground and aviation forces several times to work out what each unit wanted and what each unit could provide. During these meetings, the landing zones and mission sequence of events were finalized.
This planning led to the successful completion of an incident-free operation. The planning also provided the ground work needed to create an SOP for units to use in future joint operations supporting the coalition force mission.