BASE CAMP WARRIOR, ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Marines from Marine Attack Squadron 231 recently demonstrated the unique capabilities of the AV-8B Harrier during a Training in an Urban Environment Exercise (TRUEX) with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit at Robins Air Force Base, Ga.
The Harriers' agility and the addition of new targeting equipment makes them particularly suited for urban operations as they provide close air support and reconnaissance for ground units during a variety of missions.
"Our air support capability is much better now that we have the new targeting pod. From altitude we can precision locate, detect and zoom in close to identify enemies," said Maj. Thomas Mains, Marine Attack Squadron 231 pilot. "There's no perfect CAS platform out there, but the Harrier comes close."
The TRUEX training is taking place in Macon, Ga. Urban areas within the city offer a new training environment for "Ace of Spades" Marines.
"This area provides us with some very unique training. Back home we don't have the real world cities to operate in - we're usually in a rural environment," said Mains, an Alexandria, Va. native. "It's a rare training opportunity and the TRUEX is about the only time we get to do it."
TRUEX is designed to prepare MEU Marines for the modern urban battlefield; during training missions, Harriers provide close air support, reconnaissance and long range raids.
"Tuesday night we took off to assist the ground troops as they went to secure a stash of weapons," said Mains. Before the ground troops arrived, the Harrier pilots looked down and relayed updates. After providing reconnaissance, the Harriers took a position orbiting the area of operations in case close air support was needed. The entire mission lasted four hours and required two aerial refuelings from KC-130s with Marine Aerial Refueler Squadron 452 and VMGR-234.
Three jets, 43 Marines and six pilots, four of whom are new to the MEU, made up the detachment sent to TRUEX.
"This training is particularly valuable as more of our conflicts are taking place in urban environments," said Capt. Trey Lundy, VMA-231 pilot. "This trains us on how to find and destroy the enemy and allows us to develop new tactics to help the ground side."
According to Lundy, a native of Fairfax, Va. on his first deployment with the MEU, most of the missions have been aerial interdiction and reconnaissance imaging.
"The Harriers provide us with an organic imaging asset day and night which greatly enhances our ability," said GySgt. James C. Clements, 24th MEU intelligence chief who hails from Platteville, Colo.
VMA-231 Marines arrived May 10, and set up camp in Warrior Base Camp aboard the AFB. They will remain until May 23 when they will return to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.