SENIOR AIRMAN BAILEE A. DARBASIE Special for T&D
The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted pre-deployment operations last week at the Northern Auxiliary Airfield in the North.
Members of the 22nd MEU traveled to the North to participate in their composite training unit exercise.
The exercise combined multiple units preparing to conduct military operations at sea, project combat power ashore and deploy as a national crisis response force.
“The 22nd MEU is a 2,500-person Marine Air-Ground Task Force that trains and deploys aboard a U.S. Navy amphibious ship group of three,” said US Marine Corps Corporal -United. Ian Stubblefield, 22nd MEU Air Support Operations Operator.
The training north was part of a 24-day pre-deployment certification exercise for the 22nd MEU and Kearsarge ARG to improve combat effectiveness.
Training is the last step before units are certified for deployment.
This training is based on a “crawl, walk, run” mentality designed to ensure optimized deployment capabilities.
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“Their first operation is usually pretty basic,” said U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Scott Wiley of Marine Aircraft Group 29 Expeditionary Operations Training Group Air Augmentation.
“They try to keep it as simple as possible. But as they progress through their pre-deployment training, they start to complicate the scenarios,” he said.
Marine units practice handling all the logistics of moving people and objects from the ship to an inland location.
To enhance training and challenge their abilities, the Marines were in contact with joint forces at several other installations: Fort Gordon, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, and Townsend Bombing Range.
“There were a lot of Marines in a lot of different locations doing distributed operations,” said U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Jase Davis, officer in charge of the 22nd MEU Air Support Element.
“Our job as an air support element was to link the navy ground forces to the navy air image and the joint air image. All of this combined in airfield point defense,” Davis said.
For many Marines involved, it was the first time they had participated in such a comprehensive exercise.
“This exercise is one of the last things they do before they board their ships and set sail for deployment,” Wiley said. “It is therefore important to conduct live training to maximize unit readiness.”
Established during World War II as a dispersal site for Air Force personnel, the land of the then Northern Army Airfield was purchased between 1942 and 1945. The land was built by the US Army Air Force.
The original dirt track was built in April 1943 and used by Hughes Aircraft Co. for testing. It was also a satellite airfield of Columbia Army Air Force Base.
After World War II, a 12,000 foot runway and a 3,000 foot assault runway were constructed.
North Airfield (later North Auxiliary Airfield, Northfield Air Base) was under the jurisdiction of Fort Jackson, Shaw AFB and the Department of Energy.
On October 1, 1979, Charleston AFB took control of the installation.
It is primarily used for C-17 Globemaster III training by the 437th Airlift Wing and its “associated” Air Force Reserve unit, the 315th Airlift Wing, at Charleston AFB.