— Official News Release, Minot Air Force Base —
Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. — In order to receive unique combat training, aircrews from the Minot Air Force Base’s 69th Bomb Squadron recently participated in the Marine Corps’ Integrated Training Exercise at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California.
During the live-fire ITX, two of Minot’s B-52H Stratofortresses were called upon to provide close-air support for Marine ground units.
“They got some bombs away,” said Capt. Bradley Siefert, 69th Bomb Squadron pilot. “They were able to drop six Mark 82 bombs apiece in a 30-second trail. That’s a way we commonly employ.”
The aircrews intended to drop nearly 40 bombs during their air assault, followed by a low approach to emphasize the aircraft’s size and capability; however, certain delays prevented the mission from being carried out.
“Air control had some training objectives they were trying to accomplish, so we were working through that,” Siefert said. “It wasn’t snapping and popping like you’d like to see happen, but the objective in training is to learn.”
One lesson learned was the different way B-52 aircrews hit targets compared to aircrews from other branches of the military. While other services use a grid system, B-52 crewmembers use a latitude/longitude coordinate to hone in on the bombing area.
“That caused a little bit of delay, and that difference can sometimes throw a wrench in the works,” Siefert said. “We expected that to cause a little hitch, but all the parties that needed to be in the loop were in the loop. That’s why we’re here. We’re learning.”
Despite the mission being cut short, crewmembers were still able to receive valuable training on certain equipment, Siefert said. The sniper pod, which is used for target identification, tracking, coordinates generation and precise weapons guidance, was used during the exercise. In addition to using equipment in a realistic scenario, the crewmembers also got a feel for working hand-in-hand with troops on the ground.
“The ITX is primarily an exercise for ground assets, but it’s still outstanding training for our crewmembers to see that dynamic ground picture,” Siefert said. “It’s also a great thing to get that sniper training.”
By taking what they learned from ITX 2-15, members of the 69th BS hope to get involved in future Marine Corps exercises, and already have plans to attend the ITX scheduled for May of this year.
“I’d love to come back down in May and see this go off flawlessly,” Siefert said. “It’s tough to emphasize enough that it’s just outstanding training for us.”
With the Marine Corps’ Tactical Training Exercise Control Group providing unique training environments along with the proper safety requirements, they hope MCAGCC Twentynine Palms will soon be the elite training location for all branches of the military, said Mark “Dutch” Dietz, TTECG’s Joint Exercise Developer. In order to promote other services’ involvement in future ITX’s, members of TTECG are working to include as many outside units as possible.
“We try to bring as many joint units to the training as possible to maximize the value of the training for the Marine Corps and other services,” Dutch said. “It’s just a unique opportunity. TTECG provides a level of safety and expertise to allow this very complex training, and it could be great for all the services. This opportunity is rare, but it’s available here.”
Whether or not MCAGCC Twentynine Palms does become the U.S. Military’s premier location for all pre-deployment training, members of Minot’s 69th BS are happy to take part in the one-of-a-kind exercise.
“I’m really grateful to the Marine Corps and all the folks that are making this happen and really pushing to integrate us,” Siefert said. “I’d like to see this continue so we can get better training, and the Marines will get more familiar with heavy bombers that have a lot of ordinance to bring. It’s a great thing to see and is much appreciated.”
Image: Capt. Bradley Siefert, 69th Bomb Squadron pilot, takes notes during Integrated Training Exercise 2-15 on Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., Feb. 12, 2015. Aircrews from the 69th BS provided close-air support to Marine ground units during the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Apryl Hall)