View Full Version : Danish Airmen Train Marines, Share Expertise in Landing System

07-25-03, 10:00 AM
Danish Airmen Train Marines, Share Expertise in Landing System

By Sgt. Greg Heath / 4th Public Affairs Detachment

BAGRAM, Afghanistan, July 24, 2003 - When Cpl. Charles Freeman and Lance Cpl. Shane Proulx of 374th Marine Wing Support Squadron, discovered that Danish airmen who shared their same job were working with equipment the Marine Corps will be fielding in 2005, they knew they knew they had to seize the chance to get a head start on the rest of their Marine counterparts.

For the last five months the two Marine airfield recovery specialists have been receiving training by members of the Royal Danish Air Force on how to operate the Danish built Bac-12 Arresting Barrier, or M-31, as newly classified by the Marine Corps.

When asked by the two young Marines back in February to give some training on the equipment, Danish A.F. Sgt. Kim Carsten, said, “We were happy about (training them.)”

The Marines and Danish airfield recovery specialists’ primary jobs are very comparable, with the main difference being they work with different aircrafts, the Danish with the F-16 and the Marines working with the F-18. Their main responsibility is to quickly stop fixed-wing aircraft on a small airfield (normally 4000 feet or smaller).

They stop the aircraft using an arresting barrier, which is composed of two machines anchored on each side of the landing strip, with a steel cord between them. As the aircraft lands its tail hook catches the steel cord, and the two machines quickly stops the plane usually no more than 900 feet down the landing strip.

For the young Marines, getting the opportunity to train on the new gear was a wish come true.

“It’s ‘dream gear’ to us,” said Freeman. “Day to day it’s almost maintenance free. There are just a lot of visual checks and a lot of simple preventive maintenance.”

The Danish M-31 will be replacing the M-21 gear, which has been used by the Marine Corps since the Vietnam War.

“We fight everyday with the M-21 gear, it definitely keeps us busy,” said Freeman, and adding jokingly, “We have a lot of job security, but we’d more than welcome the M-31 gear. It would make our job that much easier.”

At their stateside duty station 29 Palms, Calif., Marine squadrons from throughout the United States come to train on landing techniques. And as airfield recovery specialist their main mission is to make sure pilots leave confident using the tail hook landing equipment.

Besides being lower maintenance, the M-31 is also “smarter” than the M-21, according to Proulx.

“With the M-21 we have to adjust our gear and set our throttles manually,” Proulx said. “(The Danish) breaking system is self adjusting, depending on the speed and weight of the plane.”

Although Freeman and Proulx aren’t the first in the Marine Corps to train on the equipment, their training experience is significant because they get to train with airmen who’ve been working with the landing equipment since the Danish Royal Air Force first fielded it 14 years ago.

“We feel training with these experienced professionals that find it all second nature definitely gives us a head start,” said Freeman.

The Danish airmen are currently trying to even further the two Marines education by attempting to reserve them a slot in the Bac-12 Arresting Barrier certification school in Denmark. According to Carsten, this is a class that not many Foreign Service members are given the opportunity to attend, but after working with the Marines for the last five months they wanted to try and get them in.

Proulx hopes to attend the course so he can possibly go back to Pensacola, Fla., and be an instructor at the Marine Airfield Recovery training school. He said his goal is to help Marines get comfortable with the M-31 by the time they field it in 2005.

The Danish airmen had never worked with American service members before their deployment here, and they admit the first time they heard they were going to help Marines, they were a little apprehensive.

“The first time I heard they were Marines I thought they might be ‘tough guys,’ said Carsten. “But they are just normal people.”

Proulx didn’t know what to expect from the Danish airmen at first either, professionally or personally, but once they met, things went fine.

“If anyone gets the chance to work with another coalition force I would say do it because it’s an awesome experience,” Proulx said. “We talk all the time and ask them about Denmark; the cultural differences are remarkable. The experience you get is great, not only getting to know them, but also working closely with them, we learned so much from them, and we’re grateful.”


Marine Lance Cpl. Shane Proulx, 374 Marine Wing Support Squadron, inspects the cable used on the Danish Bac-12 Arresting Gear on Bagram Airfield. The Marine Corps will begin fielding the Bac-12 in 2005. Defense Dept. photo by Sgt. Greg Heath