Drawing: Cobra Drawing: Cobra

Red Line
ACE deploys Corps’ deadliest weapon
Submitted by: 24th MEU
Story Identification #: 200632201341
Story by Lance Cpl. Jeffrey A. Cosola Red Line

Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia, 01 March 2006 — “One minute!” squawks across the internal communication system of a CH-46E Sea Knight as Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 365 (Reinforced) crew chief Sgt. Jared E. Daly, snaps a single finger in the air, indicating exactly how much longer terrorists have left to exist before a fleet of helicopters deploy its deadliest weapon – a Marine and his rifle.

Daly briefly illuminates a simple white sign reading “Objective” with a directional arrow and beneath that the words, “no free rides” in the direction of the squad of Marines waiting to charge down the ramp and into the darkness.

The sign is one of the last and arguably most important elements of a successful helicopter raid – a technique HMM-365 (Rein.) executed March 1 as the Air Combat Element of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit during its Training in an Urban Environment Exercise in Norfolk, Va.

“Flying is not the hard part, it’s the planning and integration of the different parts — adapting and being flexible,” said Capt. Jess K. Springfield, HMM-365 (Rein.) pilot training officer and raid pilot. “Nothing ever goes quite like you planned. You never know what might happen in a fluid environment. Your plan is only as good as the last round fired.” The mission called for Marines from Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment to raid a group of buildings aboard an outlying airfield in order to destroy a suspected weapons cache and gather any high value targets or intelligence in the area.

The ACE would support the Ground Combat Element with a contingent of 18 aircraft that included six CH-46E Sea Knights and two CH-53E Super Stallions as the assault element, two AH-1W Super Cobras, two UH-1N Hueys, two AV-8B Harriers and two F-18 Hornets as close air support and a pair of KC-130’s to aid with communication and control.

“Integration is the key,” explained Springfield. “There are a lot of aircraft in a two mile area all doing different missions. It’s important to plan how everyone fits into the overall scheme so that we’re not bumping into each other.” For Sgt. Adam Brown, an Alpha Co., squad leader and raid participant, training with the ACE to perform raids is essential to ensuring that missions succeed during real-world operations.

“The more rides we get, the better,” said Brown. “The more raids we do, the more flights we go on, the better our decision-making skills will be at the end of the day. This is my fourth year in the Marine Corps and helicopter raids are ten times better than anything else we do because of the faster insertion into the zone. It’s all about speed and intensity.” From mission planning and briefing to the actual execution, the raid was done to simulate as closely as possible the way in which it would be done in theater. Marines utilized the Norfolk area to adapt to the challenges of flying in an urban environment including the number and variety of buildings and vehicles and the ambient cultural lighting that can play havoc with pilot and crew night vision gear, said Springfield.

“Adapting is what we do best, but it’s also the hardest part,” added Springfield. “But when everything goes right it’s a lot of fun. With Marines in the back, it’s the best part of flying.” Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 365 (Reinforced) is scheduled to deploy this spring to the European and Central Command theaters of operations as the Air Combat Element of the 24th MEU, which is composed of its Command Element; Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment; and MEU Service Support Group 24.

Story provided by the United States Marine Corps

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Born on 19 March 2006