More than a month ago, Marines from Marine Aircraft Group 40, Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan, took control of the airspace over the MEB's area of operations from their United Kingdom counterparts.
Marines with the Tactical Air Operations Center, Marine Air Control Squadron 2 Detachment, Marine Air Control Group 28, had numerous challenges to overcome in order to set-up the center and transition controllers.
One of the first challenges the team had to overcome was finding a way to get the Marines accustomed to the airspace with which they would be working, even though the TAOC site was not yet ready for them to move in to.
Most of the Marines and equipment arrived here in late September, but the site they were scheduled to use was not ready, according to Master Sgt. Michael Reidy, the detachment chief. The area was an expansion of Camp Leatherneck that was not yet completed.
As the Marines waited to set up the center, move in to the new real estate and conduct turnover with their UK counterparts, they put together a temporary site that would allow their controllers to listen to air traffic. They also linked their computer system with the UK's to be able to physically see the airspace. Additionally, they sent Marines over to the UK site to observe how operations were being conducted.
"Instantly, we saw this was more robust than Iraq," said Capt. Michael Pruden, the detachment commander. "There are numerous joint aircraft, to include French, Belgian and Russian."
The observation time with the UK jump started the center's abilities once their location was completed and all their assets were in place. It took every Marine to get the center up and running, to include putting up barrier walls around the compound.
Time spent with the UK air controllers gave the Marines a solid picture of what they would be doing in Afghanistan. Now with the TAOC set up and being run by Marines, it has provided all the commanders of MEB-Afghanistan with surveillance of the airspace, said Pruden.
This allows everyone, from the MEB-Afghanistan commanding general down to the infantry commanders to see what aircraft are in the area, who they are and where they are going.
"I am very proud and pleased with the outstanding job these Marines have done," said Pruden. "I believe we will continue to provide a better service to both aircraft and the troops on the ground."