CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan --
Recently an operation bringing together five of the six functions of the aviation combat element began here in the Regional Command Southwest area of operations in Afghanistan.
The initiative, Operation Rawhide II, is intended to interdict and disrupt enemy activity along the Pakistan border in anticipation of an expected spring offensive by insurgent forces. The various squadrons of 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) have been tasked with providing close air support to ground forces in the region.
For Operation Rawhide II, 2nd MAW (Fwd.) brought out nearly all of its assets.
“We’ve used five of the six functions of Marine aviation, those being assault support, offensive air support, electronic warfare, control of aircraft and missiles, and aerial reconnaissance,” said Lt. Col. Larry G. Brown, the future operations officer for 2nd MAW (Fwd.) “Almost everyone in the wing had a part in this. Joint Helicopter Force Afghanistan, from the United Kingdom, contributed several refuelers which helped out significantly. This has been a huge operation for us.”
One of the main focuses of the operation is establishing coalition patrol bases to assess enemy activity near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan, explained Maj. Amy A. Kellstrand, a future operations planner for 2nd MAW (Fwd.). Kellstrand was one of several planners involved with forecasting the possible challenges and effects of Operation Rawhide II.
“One of the key parts of the operation is setting up patrol bases to support the ground combat element,” Kellstrand said. “It’s all about being in locations where we think we can have the most influence on enemy activity. Certain areas near the border with Pakistan are havens for weapons smuggling and drug activity.”
Kellstrand stressed that having coalition forward arming and refueling points located in key locations within the area of operations cuts down on the time Marine Corps and coalition aircraft need to refuel and rearm, which means more sorties striking enemy positions and more aircraft in position to support the troops on the ground.
“Having the FARPs out there has cut ordnance reload and refueling times significantly,” Kellstrand said.
Squadrons deployed to Afghanistan from across the United States have joined for the operation. Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 2 out of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., is providing ground forces with aerial reconnaissance; MCAS New River based Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461 and Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 264 are serving roles in transport and resupply, and casualty evacuations and leaflet drops, respectively; and Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122, out of MCAS Beaufort, S.C., are supporting with offensive air support.
“Operation Rawhide II is going extremely well,” Kellstrand said. “The Marines and the units involved know how to make things happen no matter what the situation.”
Brown went on to explain how the different wing assets were used in the operation, but gave special praise to Marine Wing Support Squadron 373, based out of MCAS Miramar, Calif., and Marine Air Control Group 28, from MCAS Cherry Point.
“The unsung heroes of all this are the Marines of MWSS-373 and MACG-28,” Brown said. “They have been phenomenal. The only reason we are able to be expeditionary is because of the support squadron’s ability to build runways and FARPs to support the rest of the wing. Without MACG-28 coordinating and controlling air space, flight missions would not be possible.”
Brown said that Operation Rawhide II will continue to be a major focus of effort in Regional Command Southwest for some time and is sure to keep the 2nd MAW (Fwd.) operational planners, tactical air control center personnel, and the entire Wing busy for quite some time.