LZ LARK, CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Feb. 22) --
In one day, a Marine from the 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion can be expected to conduct a foot patrol, drive a humvee in a mounted patrol, shoot down a hostile aircraft, and maintain communications and communications gear.
Marines of LAAD have to learn and maintain multiple skills in order to accomplish all missions assigned to them. Their primary mission is to protect friendly airspaces from hostile aircraft. But when there aren’t hostile aircraft to fire at, they are often pressed into service as a provisional infantry unit.
This situation transforms the battalion into an all-purpose weapon, and 2nd LAAD strives for proficiency in every role they assume. By necessity, 2nd LAAD has become one of the most versatile conventional units in the Corps.
“Traditionally, LAAD has taken on a lot of different roles because we’re all communicators, motor transportation operators, and Stinger gunners,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jerry D. Brown, the Battery B gunnery sergeant. “Then you add on the security role. We were so used to doing all these other military occupational specialties, we just fell right into it, and it’s just another thing for us to learn and succeed at.”
Their primary mission is to prevent hostile air assets from attacking friendly airfields. To this end, they are equipped with humvees, medium and heavy machine guns, and the Stinger surface-to-air missile.
Historically, the United States hasn’t fought a protracted battle against major hostile air forces since the Vietnam War. While low altitude air defenses may not have been necessary in the past for some time, it may be pressed into service in wars to come.
According to Sgt. Clifford F. Morley, platoon sergeant for 2nd Platoon, Battery B, 2nd LAAD, they always have to maintain readiness as an anti-aircraft unit. He believes war can come at any time, and LAAD’s Stingers will be pressed into service if the enemy has air forces.
Because LAAD didn’t face this challenge in the past Iraq war or the current Afghanistan conflict, they found themselves being pressed in to an infantry role. Instead of protecting the forward operating bases with their Stingers, they protect them by manning the entry control points and patrolling the nearby countryside on the ground.
As a provisional infantry unit, LAAD can face many unexpected situations and must be prepared to face them.
“A truck full of injured people that were hit by an IED showed up at the gate of our entry control point,” remembered Cpl. Tyler J. Borth, a fire team leader for second platoon, Battery B, 2nd LAAD. “We cleared the truck outside the gate with our hasty search. We searched the people as best we could, brought the truck in and dismounted everyone that wasn’t injured. Almost everyone in LAAD is a qualified Combat Life Saver. We had three or four people piled in the back of the truck with missing limbs, broken limbs, severe lacerations, and we saved those people with the aid that was applied at the entry control point.”
When assisting others with their medical needs, the battalion is as ready as it can be to face the enemy. The battalion employs many weapons to succeed in their secondary ground mission. They use M2 heavy machine guns, M240 medium machine guns, M16 A4s and side arms. Every Marine in the unit has to cross train on each of these weapon systems and be able to perform on each in a hostile environment.
In addition to these, most of the Marines are trained to operate military vehicles and use the radio properly.
“You have to have a basic skill set of many military occupational specialties to be a complete all-around Stinger gunner,” Borth said. “To be a Stinger gunner, you have to know the Stinger weapon system. To employ a LAAD team, you need know communications and be able to perform preventative maintenance yourself so the radio doesn’t break. On the infantry side of things, you need to know how to do a foot patrol, mounted patrol, convoy and convoy security, all the weapons systems and how to employ them.”
By utilizing these skills and assets, 2nd LAAD will continue to protect Marine air assets from hostile threats whenever they deploy.