Marines from MCAS Cherry Point, New River, and Beaufort in South Carolina as well as other Marine Corps ground units gathered at Bogue Airfield Tuesday in support of Exercise Mailed Fist, one of the largest 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing exercises in recent history.
“It’s not very often that we have an opportunity to have this many forces coordinated into one week’s worth of exercises,” said Capt. Jeff Pullinger, an AH-1W Cobra Helicopter pilot. “We can all come together and work together just as we would if we were forward deployed.”
The four-day exercise, which will continue throughout the East Coast until Thursday, provides 2nd MAW Marines the opportunity to train in assault support, anti-aircraft warfare, offensive air support, electronic warfare, control of aircraft and missiles and aerial reconnaissance.
This week Marines will be practicing casualty evacuation, aerial refueling, rapid ground refueling, rescue missions, air assaults, heavy-lift maneuvers and field carrier landingsall skills they would need if deployed to Afghanistan or another similar combat zone.
“This is stuff that could definitely happen in Afghanistan,” said Lance Cpl. Zachary Eckels, an ordinance technician from Cherry Point who loads explosives onto the planes. “This is really great training for everybody in the shop.”
The exercise started Monday with a battalion of Marines from Camp Lejeune picked up by a group of Ospreys and CH53s and inserted into an area for a battalion-sized raid, Staff Sgt. Roman Yurek, a 2nd MAW spokesman said.
Tuesday was reserved for live fire training where Marine pilots trained in missile shoots and machine gun runs on some of the targeting ranges in the local area; support crews trained in fast re-fuels and loading ammunition.
Today the units will be conducting a simulated down-pilot mission called a tactile recovery of aircraft personnel (TRAP) mission. The Marines will have to plan a rescue mission and locate the downed pilot given only a set of coordinates.
The Marines will wrap up training with a casualty evacuation drill Thursday where there will be simulated wounded Marines needing rescue.
Yurek said the exercise is designed to ensure the wing remains prepared as the II Marine Expeditionary Force’s rapid-deployment aviation force-in-readiness through training events on a scale only recently available on the East Coast.
“It replaces a lot of smaller unit level training events,” he said. “It combines what would have spanned couple of months into a week long event to make it more advantageous to the taxpayers.”
Exercise Mailed Fist marks the second time an exercise of this magnitude has been conducted on the East Coast. Last year’s exercise was the first.
“There’s not too many training opportunities that we have on the East Coast ... we have to travel a lot over to the West Coast to see something of this magnitude,” Pullinger said. “It’s rare that we have this kind of opportunity and we’re able to do it here at home.”