Photo Information

Sgt. Caleb Bailey, left, an AV-8B Harrier mechanic with Marine Attack Squadron 231, Marine Aircraft Group 40, Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan, refuels one of the squadrons aircraft while Cpl. Nicholas Waters, a plane captain with the squadron, assists by giving the pilot any needed instructions and signaling the bulk fuel Marines when it is time to turn off the fuel pump. The squadron tested the refuel capabilities here just days before starting combat operations in support of troops inserted into Marjah. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Samuel Nasso)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Samuel Nasso

Support squadron keeps ‘Ace of Spades’ in play; Harrier squadron broadens MEB-Afghanistan’s capabilities

22 Feb 2010 | Lance Cpl. Samuel Nasso

A streak of white appears in the blue sky as an ear-numbing sound shrieks behind it. The gravel and sand on the ground vibrates as two AV-8B Harriers with Marine Attack Squadron 231, Marine Aircraft Group 40, Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan, descend for the first time, Feb. 10.

A handful of days remained before the insert into Marjah for Operation Moshtarak, as Harriers landed and took off from the flight line here utilizing the AV-8B Harrier's vertical/short take-off and landing capability on the short runway, broadening the aviation capabilities to support the insert into Marjah.

Marine Wing Support Squadron 372, MAG-40, MEB-Afghanistan, extended MEB-Afghanistan's presence in Helmand province by constructing the largest expeditionary airfield since Vietnam for fixed wing aircraft, explained Lt. Col. Matthew Puglisi, commanding officer of MWSS-372.

"Since our primary base was Kandahar Airfield [in Kandahar province], our solution was to refuel and reload at Camp Dwyer," said Lt. Col. David Forrest, commanding officer of VMA-231. 

Forrest added that the distance between Marjah and Camp Dwyer is about a quarter of the distance between Marjah and Kandahar.

In addition to the runway, the north parking ramp, Tactical Airfield Fuel Dispensing System, and the connecting taxiways have enabled more aircraft to land, refuel, rearm, park and takeoff, thus decreasing the amount of time an aircraft spends refueling and increasing the amount of time aircraft can support the Marines on the ground.

"Operating out of Camp Dwyer allows Marine fixed-wing aircraft to operate closer to the battlefield and allows us to maximize our capabilities," said Maj. Toby Buchan, VMA-231 operations officer and Harrier pilot.

"We are now providing a larger aircraft footprint than before when we only had a C-130 strip," said Master Sgt. Daniel DeVries, the detachment staff non-commissioned officer-in-charge. "Now with the TAFDS, the north parking ramp and the connecting taxiways, we have, in a sense, a parallel runway that increases the traffic flow a great amount."

This recent improvement has allowed the large airborne force to operate almost solely out of Camp Dwyer during combat operations in Marjah. Harriers and other aircraft were able to refuel, rearm and return to supporting the troops on the ground faster.

"We can have helicopters fueling at TAFDS and simultaneously have a fuel truck staged on the north parking ramp fueling Harriers," DeVries said. "The flexibility definitely enhances MAG-40's potential firepower in the area for Marjah."

Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point