View Full Version : ATC launches new weapon to support Wing

01-03-06, 09:07 AM
ATC launches new weapon to support Wing
2nd Marine Aircraft Wing
Story by Cpl. Micah Snead

AL ASAD, Iraq (Jan. 3, 2006) -- Marines are blazing new trails for an expeditionary Air Traffic Control detachment in Al Asad, Iraq.

The detachment, primarily based out of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., is a mix of Marines from Marine Air Control Squadron 1, based at MCAS Yuma, MACS-2, based at MCAS Cherry Point, N.C., and MACS-24, a reserve squadron based at Ft. Worth, Texas. The detachment recently expanded its role from controlling aircraft in and around Al Asad, to broadcasting information via pictures across western Iraq. A Joint Interface Control Cell team from Al Udeid, Qatar, helped the Marines install and begin operating the tactical data links used to create and transmit a common tactical picture.

“The CTP is a visual representation of air, land and sea forces moving throughout the theater in near real time,” said Capt. Jonathan Zall, a joint interface control officer and Las Vegas native, who led the JICC team to Al Asad. “It provides visual situational awareness to command and control operators as well as fighter crews and ground commanders.”

The Marines eagerly accepted the new responsibility, helping Zall’s team with preparations even before they arrived.

“The equipment actually got there before we did,” Zall said. “We thought we were losing time when our flight got delayed. But, when we got to Al Asad the Marines had already broken out the equipment and had everything setup and ready to install.”

Tackling a new mission for the first time showed the Marines’ dedication to improving their capabilities, even if it meant taking on a heavier workload, Zall said.

“They recognized the need for tactical situational awareness in western Iraq and stretched beyond their normal mission tasks to give better support to the troops on the ground,” Zall said. “To do this, they mastered new systems and developed new tactics to get the CTP into the cockpits of the fighters working in the Marine Expeditionary Force area of operations.”

Gunnery Sgt. Jonathan Goforth, an ATC radar technician and Midwest City, Okla., native, said his Marines are always eager to do anything they can to help the overall effort.

“It’s not like we’re special,” Goforth said. “This is just what Marines do. If we can make something better, let’s do it.”

The JICC team showed the Marines how to set up and operate two new radios and a computer that manages the digital data flow. After a few classes from the team on operation and maintenance of the new equipment, the Marines were ready to take control.

“We will slowly bring everybody up to speed on it,” Goforth said. “We made sure we know how to operate it and as time goes along we will get all the Marines trained on it.”

The future operation of the new equipment will mostly depend on the Marines, Zall said.

“My team is redeploying to the states in a few weeks,” Zall said. “Our replacements will likely return to Al Asad, but only for upgrades. In the mean time, the Marines there will be responsible for the project and its upkeep and the JICC will support them from Qatar.”

Zall said they are leaving the important mission in the fully capable hands of the ATC Marines.

“That picture truly is worth a thousand words and their actions will result in more rapid and efficient air support to the Marines and Soldiers on the ground,” Zall said. “I really can’t say enough about them and their professionalism and tenacity.”

The ultimate goal for the JICC is increasing the Wing’s support for Marines and Soldiers on the ground. The success of the JICC team’s trip to Al Asad was made possible by the skill and professionalism of the ATC Marines, Zall said.

“My team had a very limited timeline to get everything setup, tested and operational,” Zall said. “We would not have succeeded had it not been for the groundwork the Marines did and their ability to rapidly assimilate the new technology and tactics.”

Accepting a new mission and succeeding at it has been par for the course for the ATC Marines, said Capt. Jeffery L. Meeker, the detachment commander and an Oceanside, Calif., native.

“At the risk of sounding cliché, I never had a doubt,” Meeker said. “The Marines have had to adapt to this environment pretty much since day one, maintainers and controllers alike, and have incorporated some new and unorthodox ways to keep it safe, meet the mission and increase capability.”


01-03-06, 07:51 PM
If it helps the Grunt on the ground, that's good.