CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
Marines from Battery K, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marines, performed High Mobility Artillery Rocket System training at Melrose Air Force Range, N.M., Jan. 24, 2019.
A HIMARS is an all-wheel drive tactical vehicle that carries a single six-pack of rockets allowing its crew to launch weapons and move away from the target at a high speed. The Marine HIMARS crew planned and executed this specific mission with numerous Navy and Air Force assets, including a MC-130J Commando II aircraft from the 9th Special Operations Squadron acting as their ‘bird’ to MAFR.
“This exercise provided a great opportunity not only for our team to work on a range of skillsets but practice directly with the other branches for real-world scenarios,” said U.S. Marine Corps Col. Aldofo Garcia Jr., 14th Marine Regiment commanding officer. “Performing a raid scenario with an aircrew from a MC-130J was a simulation of something we actually do down range. Everything from practicing the mission planning to loading the HIMARS in the aircraft and eventually performing a live-firing at MAFR will help us engage targets with more accuracy and lethality in the future.”
The training was in support of Emerald Warrior, a two-week long exercise focused on strengthening joint warfighting relationships between military branches for irregular warfare in the air and on the ground.
Created in 2007, Emerald Warrior has grown from a handful of Air Force and Army units to a large-scale exercise involving all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces and numerous partner nation forces training together in various areas of the U.S. With that type of upscale, more room for training was needed.
Melrose Air Force Range, a 70,000-acre training site 25 miles west of Cannon equipped with simulated urban environments and targets, proved to be the perfect location to execute the type of advanced tactical scenarios leadership was looking for. A night operation, such as the HIMARS one, takes critical planning by all parties involved when having to account for austere landing conditions and low visibility.
“The level of expertise and detailed communication impressed me right away,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. David P. San Clemente, Air Force Special Operations Command Air National Guard assistant to the commander. “We were able to combine so many moving parts between different branches into executing a single mission goal. It didn’t matter which uniform someone was wearing, we were all working in unison which is the exact definition of interoperability and what higher headquarters wants. This type of precision planning and decision making is happening nowhere else in the world and is the reason we (U.S.) always win.”
The high praise didn’t come from just the Air Force side as U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Richard A. Rodriguez, Naval Special Warfare Command deputy commander, shared his positive thoughts on the overall success of the training.
“Coming into this exercise, one of the obvious goals was to enhance the relationships with the other branches and we accomplished just that,” Rodriguez said. “Having everyone in the same room planning together, asking questions, coming up with ideas – it was amazing. It is going to be this type of integration that keep our special operations forces relevant for the foreseeable future. As threats continue to evolve, we will as well and that all starts by training together.”