24TH MEU AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL MARINES ASSIST WITH CLEARING THE SKIES OF GEORGIA

12 Jan 2001 | LCpl. Michael I. Gonzalez

Marines from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 (HMM-266) will be working out of Savannah International Airport while the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (24th MEU) conducts Training in an Urban Environment Exercise (TRUEX XXXIX).

To help integrate the Marine helicopters, the Marine Air Traffic Control Mobile Team (MMT), part of Marine Air Control Group detachment from Cherry Point, N.C., assigns a Marine to the air traffic control tower during all Marine flight operations. The Marine is there to liaison with civilian air traffic controllers on any issues such as routes, air space deconfliction and flight scheduling.

"The more we explain to civilian air traffic controllers, the better we can integrate our helicopters into the airport's activities," says 1st Lt. Brian Voss, officer in charge MMT.

"Safety is the number one reason we are here." All of the MMT Marines are trained air traffic controllers and actually control air space at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point and MCAS New River.

Liaison with civilian controllers is actually the Marines' secondary mission. The Marines' primary function is to create tactical landing zones (TLZs) and helicopter landing zones (HLZs) and provide tactical air traffic control for all MEU missions and operations. 

"We are able to locate and mark a 3500 x 60 foot landing strip for a KC-130, or any kind of helicopter landing zone that the mission requires, within 20 minutes," says Voss. "We use existing airfields or just about anywhere we have enough room." The landing zone pattern is based on mission dependency and can be marked overtly or covertly, meaning that the landing zone is either visible with lights, or only visible with night vision devices.

The MMT consists of a four-man team, which is self-sustainable for up to 72 hours. Once the tactical landing zone is created MMT is able to provide tactical air traffic control from the ground.  They carry a portable navigation aid that sends out signals to aircraft, which allows the pilots to establish an orientation of the landing zone's location.

The MMT has proven to be a valuable asset to the 24th MEU throughout TRUEX XXXIX for their abilities to create landing zones in an urban environment and liaison with civilian air traffic controllers.

Follow 24th MEU predeployment on their website at www.usmc.mil/24meu.