Photo Information

1st Lt. Todd E. Hancock, a tactical aircraft and helicopter director trainer with Marine Air Support Squadron 1, guides 1st Lt. Brian D. Johnson through his procedures during a direct air support squadron exercise, Feb. 23. The tactical air and helicopter director communicates with pilots in the air to coordinate support for troops on the ground.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Santiago G. Colon Jr.

MASS-1 trains, coordinates fire from above

4 Mar 2010 | Lance Cpl. Santiago G. Colon Jr.

Marine Air Support Squadron 1 continued training for operations in Afghanistan by conducting a direct air support center exercise near  the squadron’s headquarters, Feb. 23.

The Cherry Point-based support squadron has executed three Afghanistan-specific exercises since September in an effort to be best prepared for future deployments.

Sgt. Herbert T. Barber, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the exercise, said MASS-1 Marines have to adjust to a different environment and ways of accomplishing their mission than they did in Iraq. Some changes are due to the NATO’s International Security Assistance Forces’ major role in Afghanistan operations. According to the NATO Web site at, ISAF is a key component of the international community’s engagement in Afghanistan.

“In Iraq, the DASC was autonomous,” Barber said. “In Afghanistan, it is a little different. With the help we are receiving from NATO, we have to rehearse proper ways of reporting and requesting coalition medical evacuations and aviation assets.”

Lance Cpl. Carl D. Butler, an air support net operator, said his job is to receive requests from troops on the ground.

“I receive communications from infantry under fire, take what information they give, and pass it to the plotter who plots the infantry’s position on our maps,” Butler said.

Butler added the mission of the DASC is to determine what type of air support is needed. Then, the tactical air and helicopter director communicates with pilots in the air to coordinate support for troops on the ground.

“If we didn’t do our job, infantry would not have air support and could be bombarded with enemy fire,” Butler added.

The support squadron will continue to train its Marines for service in Afghanistan until they deploy, said Barber.

“We are trying to do this type of exercise every two weeks to keep up to speed with the current fight,” Barber said. “We should be well prepared by the time we get called on.”
Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point