MARINE CORPS AIR STATION NEW RIVER, N.C. -- It’s the type of radio traffic that hits strong like a gut-shot. A breathless voice shouts, “Blackhawk down,” into a dusty transmitter and well-laid plans and tactics scatter with the wreckage and twisted metal of a downed helicopter.
Amongst the debris also lie the assumptions of untouchable aviation assets -- destroyed by a few rocket propelled grenades and the poor intelligence and fundamental misunderstanding of an indigenous populace that lead a group of soldiers into a fight for their lives.
Officers with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 365 (Reinforced) spent Friday afternoon discussing Mark Bowden’s book “Blackhawk Down” and the plight of aviators and special operations ground forces during a mission gone wrong in Mogadishu, Somalia. Utilizing the framework of that raid, Marines discussed what they learned from the book and how they can apply those lessons during their upcoming deployment, said Maj. Michael S. Reed, HMM-365 (rein.) operations officer.
“The big thing as aviators is that this situation could happen at anytime,” explained Reed. “Every time they go flying they need to be prepared for this situation. They need to have thought through the possibilities and prepare themselves both physically and mentally.”
The guided-discussion broke down the book based on current operational planning and tactics and tried to overcome what they identified as intelligence and communication failures – using that information to ready the squadron for its function as the Aviation Combat Element of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, said Lt. Col. Robert S. Barr, HMM-365 (Rein.) commanding officer.
“Every lesson taken away from today is absolutely salient,” said Barr. “Every single MEU that deploys, this can happen. We must be prepared for our most difficult mission. This is that mission.”
According to Maj. Tom Campbell, HMM-365 (Rein.) CH-46E pilot and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the “Blackhawk Down” scenario isn’t “far-fetched,” and is something that every pilot needs to think through.
“I think of it like this – I’m within 60 seconds of this every time I’m flying outside of CONUS (Continental United States),” said Campbell. “This could be any one of us, very quickly.”
Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 365 (Reinforced) is scheduled to deploy this spring to the European and Central Command theaters of operations as the Aviation Combat Element of the 24th MEU, which is composed of its Command Element; Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment; and MEU Service Support Group 24.
The 24th MEU is currently participating in an Expeditionary Strike Group Exercise in Norfolk, Va.