Ready Group lands Down Under

7 Aug 2016 | Cpl. Nicole Zurbrugg 1st Marine Aircraft Wing


Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122, Marine Wing Support Squadron 171, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12, Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 and other elements of Marine Aircraft Group 12 from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, traveled to Royal Australian Air Force Base Tindal, Australia, July 22, 2016, to participate in Exercise Pitch Black 2016. 

U.S. service members assigned to MAG-12 or the Ready Group are spending three weeks in Australia to partake in the host country’s multination exercise that also includes participation from Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Indonesia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore and Thailand. 

The flying squadron with the group is VMFA-122 home based out of MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina. They are currently assigned to MAG-12 at MCAS Iwakuni under the Unit Deployment Program.

The squadron is also participating in three additional weeks of unit level training known as Southern Frontier, helping the squadron gain experience and qualifications in low altitude, air-ground, high explosive ordnance delivery at the unit level.

Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, Marine Corps deputy commandant for aviation, highlighted the importance of a training readiness goal of T-2.0, the desired state of tactical readiness for a flying unit, in his latest Marine Aviation Plan. 

“There are not a lot of live ranges where we can fly low altitude training, so Southern Frontier is a great opportunity to achieve that goal,” said Lt. Col. Derek M. Brannon, commanding officer of VMFA-122.

Pitch Black begins Aug. 1, 2016, affording Marines with VMFA-122 the opportunity to integrate and increase interoperability with their regional joint and coalition partners while developing operational concepts for conducting sustained combat operations. 

“To partake in a large force exercise and integrate over 100 aircraft into a flowing exercise is an amazing opportunity, breeding familiarity between countries,” said Maj. Matthew Halbert, operations officer for VMFA-122. “Training in a dynamic and complex air-to-air environment strengthens the collective core mission goals.”

The main, multi-national exercise provides the highest level of collective training squadrons and units to exercise air combat assets and procedures. 

“I view this as the capstone training exercise for the squadron,” said Halbert. “It allows the junior pilots to apply air-to-air and air-to-ground engagements, learned during the UDP at MCAS Iwakuni, to a real world situation with multiple countries in a different environment.”

Brannon considers the combination of these two exercises as the squadron’s culminating event before heading home to MCAS Beaufort after their 6 month deployment to the Pacific region. 

“The squadron arrived with young pilots, but has gained ample experience during the UDP and will return to home base more skilled and prepared to take on anything,” said Brannon.