MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C.: Leathernecks of Marine Wing Support Squadron 274 engaged in a field training exercise Sept. 14 – 25 at Marine Corps Auxiliary Landing Field Bogue, N.C.
The exercise provided an opportunity to assess and correct any areas needing improvement before the “Ironmen” head to Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., for Enhanced Mojave Viper next year.
“We’re bringing every capability we have into the field,” said Lt. Col. Anthony A. Ference, MWSS-274’s commanding officer. “We have to make sure the Wing can launch birds to support the fight.
“The training at Mojave Viper will include live-fire exercises and all the training that we couldn’t do here at Bogue,” he added. “The training we do there will prepare us for our deployment.”
A number of MWSS-274 assets including medical and communications personnel, explosive ordnance disposal, motor transport and military police were on hand to display the squadron’s multifaceted abilities to provide support for Wing assets in a deployed environment.
“The commanding officer is really big on training,” said Gunnery Sgt. Thomas A Miller, MWSS-274’s training chief. “We do some sort of squadron training event every quarter so no one loses proficiency in their military occupational specialty.”
One of the exercise scenarios involved MWSS-274 combat engineers repairing sections of a damaged taxiway. The repair took the expertise of both damage assessment teams and response teams.
“Our job here is to clean the debris off the runway and fill the holes with concrete,” said Cpl. James W. Gower, a team leader with MWSS-274’s engineers who helped oversee the repair of the taxiway. “We’ve got two types of repairs we make to damaged runways. One is a temporary fix using a quick drying pavement and the other is permanent, using concrete.”
Another scenario had the EOD technicians perform improvised explosive device disposal drills and rehearse procedures for creating a perimeter around a potential IED, said Gunnery Sgt. Jeffrey Bratcher, the staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge for MWSS-274 EOD.
“We’ve been performing two roles out here as far as being aggressors and helping to set off and clear IEDs,” Bratcher said. “We’ve got a bunch of new guys that have really benefited from this training.”
During the exercise, medical staff were tasked with going over records, taking care of sick-call patients and caring for any injuries sustained by Marines during the exercise, said Petty Officer 3rd Class Shaquita Mouton, a corpsman with MWSS-274.
“If the Marines are doing anything where there is any possible way they can be injured, a corpsmen has to be there,” Mouton said.
“We’ve been doing a lot of internal training also,” she added. “One thing we’ve had to overcome is scheduling our Naval training around training we do with the Marines.”
While physical care was provided by the corpsman, mental and spiritual guidance was the top priority for Navy Lt. Evan Adams, the squadron’s chaplain.
“My tasks as chaplain are to provide religious and moral counsel to the men and women of MWSS-274,” Adams said. “One way of doing this is morale, welfare and recreation. We provide movie nights, Bible studies and even football games. These things help keep a healthy spirit and high morale.”
Adams explained that all religious preferences can be accommodated.
“Recently we provided services for the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah and Ramadan, the muslim month of fasting from sunrise to sunset,” Adams said. “We also secured the services of a priest to come and conduct a Catholic Mass.”
Providing spiritual and moral support can make a deployment more bearable for the Marines and Sailors, he added.
Capping off the training Sept. 23, members of MWSS-274’s crash fire rescue team simulated a platform rescue. The operation involved pulling a truck up to the cockpit of a static aircraft and using the vehicle as a platform to extract the pilot. According to Gunnery Sgt. Raymond Secoy, the CFR chief, this type of rescue is rarely performed by his Marines.
“We only do this type of rescue if there is no smoke, fire or direct danger posed to the CFR personnel,” Secoy said.
Although most of the Marines performing the rescue were relatively inexpeienced, Secoy praised their efforts.
“Some of these Marines are preparing for their first deployment,” Secoy said. “With some experience, their communication and immediate medical assistance will improve.”
MWSS-274 commanding officer Ference said he was impressed with his unit’s performance over the 11-day exercise, and looks forward to continuing workups in the coming months.
“This squadron is very unique,” Ference said. “Everyone has done very, very well. We’ve really gotten some great training out here this week.”