ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE BASE TINDAL, Australia — More than 300 Marines migrated toward the outback for exercise Southern Frontier at Royal Australian Air Force Base Tindal, Australia, last week.
Southern Frontier is an annual, bilateral training exercise hosted by the RAAF to afford Marine Aircraft Group 12 Hornet squadrons the opportunity to focus on offensive air support training in order to improve squadron readiness.
Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224 has been provided with the high quality venue of the Delamere Bombing Range, south of Katherine, Australia, to develop multilateral interoperability and coalition procedures in air power missions.
“It’s a great training area,” said Maj. Patrick Fitzgerald, executive officer of VMFA(AW)-224. “There are fantastic air and ground ranges. This time of year, there’s fantastic weather. It’s all conducive to the best training we can receive while we are here.”
Training will include forward air control, close-air support, armed reconnaissance, low-altitude tactics and tactical airborne reconnaissance over the next few weeks.
“Our focus is going to be mainly on close-air and ground support,” said Fitzgerald. “We will be talking to the guys on the deck and we will be supporting them as they control our aviation fires. The training is all going to be integrated at the same time so that all personnel can benefit from the training.”
VMFA(AW)-224 arrived at RAAF Base Tindal as part of the Unit Deployment Program, established to allow Marine Corps squadrons to deploy throughout the Western Pacific region in order to develop operational skills in forward deployed environments and form relationships with cultures within those regions.
With the support of MAG-12, Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12, VMFA(AW)-224 will be ready to enhance readiness and joint interoperability between U.S. forces, allies and partners.
“Our job will be to provide support equipment and maintenance for gear,” said Cpl. Alexander Mcintyre, ground support equipment mechanic with MALS-12. “If something breaks, we are here to try to fix it and get the birds back to the squadron.”
Other Marine Corps units scheduled to participate in the exercise include the 5th Air Naval Gunfire Liason Company based at Camp Hanson in Okinawa, Japan and 3rd Marine Regiment, a unit based at Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
The 5th ANGLICO’s mission will be to provide Marine Air Ground Task Force personnel with close air and fire support, observation and communication elements. All participating units have much work to do as personnel work around the clock to set up networks, work space and coordinate procedures.
According to Mcintyre, the hardest part is just getting settled in.
“There are always hardships with each deployment,” he said. “Once we get here, we have to figure everything out and get an idea of what our capabilities are.”
As VMFA(AW)-224 continued to receive supplies and personnel throughout the first week of arrival, the unit continued to look forward to carrying out Southern Frontier as a successful mission.
Originally published: Marines.mil