U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY -- The AV-8BII+ Harrier jump jet screams down the flight deck and launches into the air. The pilot does a quick check to make sure everything is okay and the Air Traffic Controllers let him know that everything is fine from where they sit. The pilot checks that and then changes frequencies to acquire the air controllers that are waiting for him down on the ground to guide him to his next destination.
The Aviation Support Element of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) are the unsung heroes of the Marines Air Detachment. They are responsible for all the aircraft that leave the Amphibious Ready Group heading to land to conduct their missions by directing them around or through their area of responsibility.
"When the aircraft launch from the ships they belong to us. We direct them to their pre deployment point before handing them over to the Forward Air Controllers (FAC). Along the way we give them real time intelligence and let them know what areas are hot," said Memphis, Tenn. native 1st Lt. Jonas Buring, Officer in Charge of the ASE Det. " Once the FAC has them they will guide them in to drop their bombs on their targets. When that is done they return to us so that we can collect the Battle Damage Assessment (BDA) data on the mission and relay it back to the ship. We then direct the aircraft back to their respective ships to re-arm or if the mission is over to land and do their post missions brief."
Being in the U.S. CENTCOM's AOR means that the members of the ASE can do their job and get the training they need to remain proficient. This is also chance for the females attached to the MEU to go to the field and experience life as the grunts do.
" This gives us a chance to get off the ship and allows me to actually be able to do my job. I like the fact that we can do this in different countries and that I can actually direct aircraft," said 1st Lt. Jennifer Jordan of Houston, the Tactical Air Director of the ASE det. " As a female this is a great opportunity to come out to the field and see things that I normally would not be able to. Most females don't get the chance to deploy with the MEU to the field and be next to the Battalion Landing Team (BLT) so I am relishing this and am loving the time that I am out here."
This is also a unique opportunity for the enlisted members of the ASE to do some things that they normally would not be able to do back in the States.
"Being here allows my enlisted guys the chance to get on the net and actually direct aircraft to their objectives freeing up myself and the TAD," said Buring. "In case something happens and we cannot be here to direct the aircraft this gives my guys the chance to learn every aspect of their jobs and makes my job easier."
"This gives me the chance to actually direct aircraft and learn what my officers do on a day-to-day basis. I love the fact that I can learn new things and be in places that I have never been before. I like the fact that my chain of command trusts me enough to allow me to do this," said Air Support Net Operator and Roanoke, Va. native Cpl. Tommy Burch.
There are differences between the training that the ASE can do back in the U.S. and in CENTCOM's AOR.
"Back at Cherry point we never deploy to the field with the MEU. They have so many more restrictions back there to worry about. We have to get permission in order to direct the aircraft and with the civilian flights and other things it just makes it harder to do that," said Buring. " So being here it makes our job much easier. We have the opportunity to do what we were trained to do."
No matter where the MEU goes or what the mission will be the ASE will be able to handle any task put before them. They will be able to put their training to use and make sure that the aircraft from the various air wings from the MEU are able to complete their mission with no mishaps, doing what comes natural to them and succeeding in keeping the MEU flying and the ARG dangerous.