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Source: US CentCom.

23 Sept 07
By Cpl. Zachary Dyer
2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (FWD)
.

AL ASAD, Iraq — History is a big part of the Marine Corps, every Marine is taught to honor the legacy of the first Leathernecks in 1775. Tradition has permeated so far into the Marines that it is not just the history of the Corps that Devil Dogs honor, but the feats of individual units as well.

Marines in one of the oldest heavy helicopter squadrons in the Marine Corps, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 362, are upholding a tradition of excellence that has extended almost 25 years with 70,000 Class A mishap-free flight hours.

“Its very rare,” said Lt. Col. Brian Cavanaugh, the Ugly Angels’ commanding officer. “Hardly any squadrons get this high, so we’ve been fortunate to reach this milestone. It’s a good mark, and we want to keep it going. Especially in combat, because it’s not like flying at home in the states, it’s desert (operations) with a high operational tempo. To be able to continue to do things safely is a testament to the high caliber of the Marines.”

The squadron’s mishap-free streak, which started March 28, 1983, is an accomplishment that has taken years of hard work, according to Maj. Richard Matyskiela, the HMH-362 operations officer.

Part of that hard work was completed in combat. Since they arrived in Iraq the squadron has flown just over 2,800 hours, according to Matyskiela, a Silverdale, Pa., native.

“That’s four to five times what we fly back in (Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii),” said Matyskiela. “Every aircraft out here is at about 60 hours per month. And along with that, our maintainers are doing a few years worth of maintenance out here. In six months out here they are probably getting a good two years worth of maintenance under their belt. Out maintainers are doing a phenomenal job out here.”

The “Ugly Angels” of HMH-362 have a deep history that dates back 55 years. They have the proud distinction of being the first Marine aircraft unit to deploy in support of the Vietnam War, and they also currently have the oldest CH-53D “Sea Stallion” in the Marine Corps, according to Cavanaugh.

“This squadron has a rich history,” said Cavanaugh, a Baltimore native. “We celebrated our 55th anniversary this year back in April. So this is one of the older squadrons in the Marine Corps. This squadron was in Vietnam, it was in the first Gulf War, it’s been to Haiti. So there is a lot of tradition, a lot of heritage, within the unit. This is just another benchmark to show that this squadron is a very, very good squadron. One of the best in the Marine Corps.”

The Marines of HMH-362 operate the same way they have done for the last 55 years, by the book. It is the dedication of the junior Marines that has allowed the Ugly Angels to continue the streak as long as they have, according to Capt. Nick Turner, an HMH-362 pilot and the flightline officer in charge.

“The pilots and the officers don’t do it around here,” said Turner, an Elliot, Iowa native. “I mean, sure we give a little guidance, but it’s the sergeants and below. They are the pulse of the squadron. Our frontline is out there on the flightline making sure that the aircraft are mission ready. And they do it with a smile on their face, without a complaint, every day. It’s impressive.”

Turner, who is the pilot credited with flying the mission that helped the squadron reach the latest milestone, attributes the Marines’ pride in their squadron and in maintaining the reputation they have built over the years to their success.

“They have an enormous sense of pride, not only in this aircraft but in this squadron,” explained Turner. “They know the great history of this squadron, I mean it goes all the way back to 1962 in Vietnam. My dad was an original Ugly Angel back in 1965 in Vietnam. They have an enormous amount of pride, not only in the aircraft and the history, but in preserving it.”

From the moment a Marine arrives at the squadron, they are taught the history of the Ugly Angels, and they become part of the Ugly Angels family, according to Lance Cpl. Jorge Toledo, a crew chief with HMH-362

“It definitely motivates us, especially when we watch old videos of the squadron that date back as far as Vietnam,” said Toledo. “As the years went along, we’ve always remained Ugly Angels. It’s just the way we do things. It’s 100 percent all the time, no less. Whenever you feel down you think about what the people did that were here before you, and it motivates you to keep on going, to work that much harder to get things done.”

So the Ugly Angels are celebrating their latest achievement, and looking forward to adding more to their long list of accomplishments.

“People come and go, but the way the Ugly Angels do things remains the same,” said Turner. “This patch has stayed the same the whole time. Regardless of who’s been here, nothing’s changed.”

Photo – Capt. Nick Turner, a pilot with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 362, skillfully pilots a CH-53D “Sea Stallion” through a turn during a mission, Sept. 15. The Marines of HMH-362, the “Ugly Angels,” have racked up over 70,000 Class A mishap-free flight hours. Photo by Cpl. Zachary Dyer.

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Source: US CentCom.

by Maj. Adriane Craig
376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
.

MANAS AIR BASE, Kyrgyzstan (AFPN) — Kyrgyz controllers from Manas Air Base got the chance to see air traffic operations on a whole new level with an orientation trip to the United States Sept. 3 to 17. Seven Kyrgyz air navigation controllers spent nearly two weeks touring the training and advanced operations sites that comprise the United States flight network.

U.S. Central Air Forces sponsored the trip as part of the on-going education and exchange program between Kyrgyz air navigation and the 376th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron at Manas Air Base. The two organizations work closely because the base is collocated with Manas International Airport.

The controllers visited civilian air traffic control centers belonging to the Federal Aviation Administration and the military air traffic control tower at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. They also traveled south to visit the military air traffic controller school house at Keesler AFB, Miss.

Air operations in another country was a real eye-opener for some of the participants as the Kyrgyz controllers got to see firsthand the high-tech equipment used in daily operations and training.

For Aibek Akmatov, a senior air traffic controller with the KAN, the training facility was one of the biggest surprises.

“You can talk with the computer,” said Mr. Akmatov after seeing the simulator used at the military ATC school.

The group spent three days at the schoolhouse, where hundreds of military controllers are trained each year. The schoolhouse provides realistic training to better prepare controllers for the challenges they’ll face on duty.

The size of the airports that the groups visited also impressed the Kyrgyz controllers, along with the amount of air traffic they handle.

“Seventy percent of the global air traffic flows through the United States,” said Maj. Michael Smith, the 376th EOSS commander, who accompanied the controllers on the trip west.

The Kyrgyz controllers were exposed to large-scale operations, which enhanced their understanding of the big picture of safe air traffic control.

“Now I have a clear view of how our American colleagues work. The command air traffic control centers in Washington, D.C., work with 20 sectors across the country and provide a good flow of air traffic,” Mr. Akmatov said.

Photo – David Maddox explains the layout of the airfield to Igor Kulik, Taalaibek Alisherov, and Lev Semenovykh Sept. 6 at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. Mr. Maddox is the Federal Aviation Administration shift manager responsible for tower operations at Andrews AFB. The Kyrgyz air traffic controllers visited Andrews AFB and several other facilities in Virginia and Mississippi as part of a two-week orientation sponsored by U.S. Central Air Forces. The trip is part of an ongoing education and exchange program between Kyrgyz air navigation and the 376th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron at Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan. The two organizations work closely together because the base is collocated with Manas International Airport. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Alexy Saltekoff.

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Source: US CentCom.

19 Sept 07
By Sgt. Anthony Guas
2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward)
.

AL QAIM, Iraq — Just like a guide dog helps a blind person or a ground guide assists a heavy equipment operator, air traffic controllers are on the ground to help pilots. Wherever there are Marine Corps aircraft[s] flying, there are air traffic controllers ensuring that the pilots know when they can take off or land, how to approach the airfield, or what is in the airspace.

For Al Qaim, those are the controllers of Marine Air Traffic Control Mobile Team for Marine Air Control Squadron 1, Detachment C.

“The mission of any air traffic controller, whether it be back in the states or here, is the expeditious flow of traffic into or out of our airspace,” said Staff Sgt. Jimmy Houser Jr., MMT leader for MACS-1, Detachment C. “Here it’s all helicopters, we don’t have a runway for any fixed wing aircraft.”

The controllers are responsible from the surface of Al Qaim to 3,000 feet, 5 nautical miles from the center of the airfield. They are split into six-hour shifts in which they land and depart as many as 20 helicopters a day.

“We de-conflict any type of flight into or out, (unarmed aerial vehicles), weather balloons all that stuff,” said Houser.

Since the size of Al Qaim does not accommodate fixed wing aircraft, the controllers spend their time dealing with just helicopters. The limited number of aircraft operating in and out of Al Qaim makes the operational tempo for the controllers a little slower than usual.

“The traffic here is slow, we do just over 40 operations a day,” said Houser. “Most of the Marines are from (Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.) and I’m from (MCAS Yuma, Ariz.), which are two of the busiest airports in the Navy and Marine Corps so we are used to 40 operations in an hour and we do that in a 24-hour period here.”

The slower operational tempo allows Marines like Cpl. Blaze Crawford, who previously worked in radar, an opportunity to wet his feet working in the tower.

“It’s new, when I first started I didn’t know the aircrafts flight and where they were going to come in, I had no clue what was going on because I never see them in radar,” explained Crawford. “When I’m in the radar room I’m in a box, I don’t see them, they are a dot. It’s exciting to actually see what I’m doing.”

Although the operational tempo may be slower, the Marines are determined to give their best effort by increasing the quality of air traffic control that they provide.

“We’re doing great so far,” said Sgt. Nicholas Foster, air traffic controller, MACS-1. “I’m glad that it’s such a small group of guys. It could be bad because there could be one or two that don’t know the job, but we kind of lucked out in that we are all kind of seasoned. Nobody has to baby-sit anybody, everyone knows their job, they know what they have to do, they know the Marine Corps.”

While battling the normal difficulties of a deployment, the ATC Marines also have an added number of obstacles that they must hurdle on a daily basis.

“What makes the job difficult here is limited visibility and limited equipment,” explained Houser. “Basically the austere environment and the wear and tear of the gear.”

Despite the lack of accommodations to do their job, the Marines are adjusting to their environment and compensate for the shortfalls by increasing their proficiency in other areas.

“The Marines study the airspace as much as they can,” explained Houser. “There are a couple of different things that you can learn around here.”

Whether it is reading manuals or memorizing the rules for the airfield, the controllers are always working hard to ensure that they are a positive source of information for the aircraft pilots.

“There is a manual that teaches you everything about the airfield, a course rules brief that tells all the pilots how to get into and out of the airspace, what we expect them to do,” said Houser. “As long as we continue to train to everything in the airspace, train on the radio, train on the equipment to pass information whether it be mIRC (Internet Relate Chat), (e-mail), that’s how we compensate for some of the shortfalls.”

Another service that the controllers provide is navigational aid when there is inclement weather or limited visibility. To ensure that the navigational aid is always ready the MMT has a technician on call 24 hours a day.

“We provide tactical aid navigation for aircraft to find the airfield in case of inclement weather or some type of outage or shortage,” Houser explained. “(The tactical aid mechanic) provides service to that (system) 24 hours a day.”

Although they are a small air traffic control team and their mission is smaller than usual, the Marines know that they are having positive influence on the mission in Al Qaim.

“I think its great that we’re out here, normally if there is any type of a Marine aircraft flying there’s always a Marine air traffic controller that’s talking to them,” explained Houser. “We do play a vital role when it comes to the (medical evacuations), getting them out as quick as possible. That’s probably the best feeling that we have, knowing that there’s troops in contact, we need to get a gunship out or there’s somebody injured and we need to get them medevaced into or out of the airspace.”

Photo – Sgt. Nicholas Foster, air traffic controller for Marine Air Control Squadron-1, looks on the mIRC (Internet Relate Chat) for information on incoming flights to Al Qaim, Aug. 31, 2007. Foster is part of the Marine Air Traffic Control Mobile Team that manages the airspace in Al Qaim. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Anthony Guas.

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