Camp Pendleton --
Weapons and Tactics Instructors with Marine Wing Support Squadron 373, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, implemented an innovative training exercise called Aviation Ground Support Leaders Course that develops and empowers Non-Commissioned Officers of the MWSSs to be able to plan, brief and execute a variety of complex missions in support of MACG-38 and 3rd MAW. The training took place between Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, from Jan. 23 to Feb. 13, 2023.
Marine Corps NCOs are enlisted leaders and the backbone of their Military Occupational Specialties; leadership abilities and confidence in their craft is crucial for mission success. The mission of AGSLC is to create NCOs with a superior knowledge of the Aviation Ground Support activities who can compete, fight and win while executing Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations, an integral aspect of Force Design 2030. AGS is a critical component of Marine aviation’s expeditionary capability, with the MWSS being the principal AGS unit. Each MWSS is tasked to execute six distinct AGS activities: Forward Aviation Combat Engineering, Airfield Operations, forward arming and refueling, Base Recovery After Attack, Airfield Damage Repair, and Aircraft Salvage and Recovery. These missions span dozens of MOSs. During this training, Marines came together in a team effort to overcome obstacles they would meet in austere, forward operational environments.
“This course was our answer to a demand signal from the Non-Commissioned Officers who sought to professionalize Aviation Ground Support at their level.” Maj. Tyler Stratton, operations officer for MWSS-373
The Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. David H. Berger, implemented Force Design 2030 to redesign the Marine Corps based on current and future threats that call for a more capable force, with new operating concepts.
Maj. Tyler Stratton, operations officer for MWSS-373, emphasizes the training’s connection to Force Design 2030. “As Force Design continues to modernize and shape the Marine Corps, the MWSS must continue its tradition of innovation to increase its ability to execute Aviation Ground Support no matter the situation or the location,” Stratton said. “We need to prepare our Marines to fully understand and employ Aviation Ground Support in Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations.”
The Marines executed a variety of evolutions that would test them in challenging environments to include EABO logistics and communications, exposing some of the friction inherent in operating in isolated, maritime theaters of operation. They practiced skills at the tactical level including machine gun mastery and live fire exercises; Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear training; landing zone surveys; expeditionary airfield setup; and Forward Arming and Refueling Point implementation – all of which instilled confidence in the young leaders in their abilities to facilitate expeditionary aviation operations. They also practiced key skills that benefit the individual Marine including medical aid with Tactical Combat Casualty Care, Expeditionary Fire and Rescue, Aircraft Salvage and Recovery, and Base Recovery After Attack. The Marines went beyond just learning these skills for themselves, but also how to instruct and train other Marines in the future. The Marines reached a skill level enabling them to brief MWSS-373 senior leadership on Aircraft Salvage and Recovery and for Base Recovery After Attack, highlighting their mastery of the skills, which will prove crucial for Marines to respond effectively in the face of an enemy attack or emergency situation.
Observing The Environment
Photo by Sgt. Rachaelanne Woodward
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Christian Asher, a heavy equipment operator with Marine Wing Support Squadron 373, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, observes his surroundings while in a defensive position during the Aviation Ground Support Leadership Course on Camp Pendleton, California, Feb. 8, 2023. Marines in the course trained for and demonstrated capabilities across the six activities of AGS: forward arming and refueling, airbase ground defense, airfield damage repair, aircraft salvage and recovery, base recovery after attack, and airfield operations. This course is designed to equip noncommissioned officers in AGS units with the knowledge and experience to be technically proficient, and develop them as strong, effective leaders. AGS is a critical component that bolsters Marine aviation’s expeditionary capability. Asher is a Virginia Beach, Virginia native.
The course is evolving at an important time, as Marine Corps aviation’s relevance and capabilities are at the forefront in widespread maritime environments. Marine Corps NCOs sought the training and opportunities to keep their abilities sharp going forward.
“There is no other course like it in the Marine Corps,” Stratton said. “This course was our answer to a demand signal from the Non-Commissioned Officers who sought to professionalize Aviation Ground Support at their level.”
The students’ individual proficiency within their MOS is placed within the larger Aviation Command and Control Ground Support system that MACG-38 employs, broadening their ability to execute AGS in Expeditionary Advanced Bases on the forward edge of the battlefield. Marine Corps aviation is investing heavily in the education, training, and preparedness of NCOs who will be responsible for AGS execution in a decentralized manner.