CAMP STORY, South Korea -- CAMP STORY, South Korea - More than 130 Marines and Sailors with Marine Air Support Squadron 2, Marine Air Control Group 18, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, deployed the Direct Air Support Center and an Air Support Element to Camp Story, South Korea, for exercise Midori Guardian 17 from September 5 to October 15, 2017.
Midori Guardian, a Unit Level Training event aimed at enhancing squadron readiness while in a field environment, utilizes simulated real-world scenarios focused on DASC and ASE operations, live-fire ranges, and Marine Corps Common Skills training to prepare the unit for future operations.
“After spending 30 plus days in the field together, the unit has really grown closer,” said Gunnery Sgt. Robert Giossi, a DASC chief with MASS-2 and native of Ortonville, Minnesota. “We’ve had to rely on everybody else in the unit to do their job and to do it well and I think we’ve done just that. I can see a greater confidence in every Marine’s ability to do their job. We certainly set the standard for future Midori Guardians.”
The DASC, the Marine Corps’ principal aviation command and control system and agency responsible for air operations directly supporting ground forces, is the glue that holds the Ground Combat Element and the Air Combat Element together. It facilitates and expedites the ACE’s ability to support the fight on the ground.
“We try to stay as integrated as we can with the ground troops so that we know when things are shooting and where they are shooting so we can warn pilots and keep everyone safe while still integrating everything the Marine Corps has into a small piece of air space,” said Capt. Matthew Paull, MASS-2 assistant operations officer and a native of Titusville, Florida. “If there are Marines on the ground that need to be integrated with the air, they need some kind of DASC capability to make that happen.”
The DASC processes requests for immediate air support, including joint tactical air strike requests, CASEVAC requests and assault support requests, it integrates weapons capabilities on the ground with the aviation assets nearby, they procedurally control the air space between Air Traffic Control and their final destination, and they manage terminal control assets.
“This is one of those jobs in the Marine Corps that doesn’t get a lot of attention,” said Paull. “We aren’t the glamourous people out there charging the front lines. The mission or capability that we provide to the Marine Air-Ground Task Force as a whole really makes it an efficient war fighting machine. The war fighting functions are certainly enhanced by what we bring to the fight. We are one of the few countries in the world that have this kind of capability.”
Throughout the exercise participants experienced a high operational tempo, often working 9- 12 hour days and conducting 30-40 immediate request scenarios a day. More than 60 Marines were qualified on various positions within the DASC, significantly improving the percentage of unit readiness.
“Being able to set up the DASC and run continuous operations day after day for more than 30 days was a big win for us,” said Paull. “Just the sheer magnitude of hours and training that the Marines were able to get in the system themselves was remarkable."
The unit was also effective in growing individual and unit readiness with respects to Marine Corps common skills. They successfully completed five live-fire ranges and multiple iterations of squad and platoon level defensive and offensive operations.
“It’s important to remember that today you may be in the DASC but tomorrow you might be called upon to something much different,” added Paull. “You can never forget that you’ve got to keep your Marines well rounded. You can’t overly emphasize one area because it will be to the detriment of a different area that they need to maintain and focus on. Getting Marines at the small unit leader level back into the warfighter mindset was key.”
Since the beginning, this iteration of Midori Guardian stood out from the rest when motor transportation Marines successfully completed the first largest convoy on the peninsula. Driving from Pohang to Warrior Base, the Marines easily drove more than 7,000 tactical miles, considerably more than ever driven before during a single exercise.
“To physically move your own stuff and to be self-supportive in a country you haven’t been to before was new to us,” said Gunnery Sgt. Donald Marsh, a motor transportation chief with MASS-2. “We proved that we as a unit can do this with little outside help. This exercise was like my super bowl and our commanding officer was our coach. He put faith in us to do it and we achieved it and then some.”
A second significant milestone was achieved when U.S. and ROK Marine and Air Force leadership met to discuss a growing aviation command and control capability for ROK forces. In truth, simply conducting Midori Guardian in Korea was a milestone in and of itself.
“Being three miles from the [Demilitarized Zone] certainly adds a layer of realism that they absolutely won’t get back in the rear,” said Paull. “As much as you try to simulate the training there is nothing better than going out to a location where you have active mine fields around you, a very heavily guarded DMZ three miles north, and ROK Army and ROK Marines training right alongside you. That kind of realism you just won’t get in Okinawa.”