As hostile forces seized nearby islands, isolating western portions of the III Marine Expeditionary Force Area of Responsibility, they cut off vital sea lines of communication to the east. In response, during the hours of darkness, “STINGER 45” and “STINGER 46” departed a small island airfield and struck enemy outposts on northern and southern islands to reduce enemy command and control capability as well as eliminate their will to fight. Simultaneously, operations dispatched three Stinger flights to engage multiple ground vehicles, fast attack crafts, command and control nodes and enemy personnel. This simulated scenario played out in the middle of April during a Mission Rehearsal Exercise (MRX) on and around the island of Okinawa, Japan.
Close Air Support, escort and combat assault transport missions continued for the Stingers of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 267 (HMLA-267) as they inserted elements of 5th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO) onto an expeditionary forward base. Utilizing AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom aircraft, the Stingers escorted Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465 and Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 while they inserted six additional waves of Marines. HMLA-267 quickly turned their attention to providing CAS and eliminated enemy bunkers and equipment. Adversary mechanized infantry and anti-air capabilities were also destroyed, enabling Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations to take hold for follow-on missions.
The training demonstrated the HMLA’s capability to support EABO operations in a distributed maritime environment. The MRX also served as a culmination of HMLA-267’s time on Okinawa while attached to 1st Marine Aircraft Wing as the Unit Deployment Program HMLA squadron. The Indo-Pacific theatre presents unique challenges to the defense of the United States and our partners and allies in the region. The mission of an HMLA facilitates an important skill-set within the Air Combat Element that plays a critical combat assault support role for the Marine Air Ground Task Force. This training demonstrated that skill-set when applied to the EABO construct.
The MRX also featured maritime interdiction and Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel training. The main objective of this training was to recover aircraft personnel and intercept a simulated adversary amphibious assault. During one day of the exercise, HMLA-267 departed Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to refuel and arm with small arms rounds and inert Hellfire missiles at a Forward Arming and Refueling Point. Marine Wing Support Squadron 172 operated this FARP from an austere airstrip on Ie Shima Island. After arming and refueling, the squadron conducted a mission to destroy an enemy stronghold/command and control center at Irisuna Island approximately 40 miles off the coast of Okinawa.