MACG-18 officers tour US Army Patriot missile launcher training site
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, OKINAWA, Japan -- It is a hot and humid day as U.S. soldiers adjust an antenna that monitors air waves for radio frequencies from other installations on Okinawa. Suddenly, a crackling noise rattles from the radio with a notification. A simulated missile is moments away, blazing a trail toward the island.
The soldiers jumped into action, quickly applying all the training they received on their data systems and defense technologies.
This life and death scenario brought Marine officers with Marine Air Control Group 18, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, to Marine Corps Air Station Futenma June 17 where a group of soldiers were preparing a Patriot missile launcher’s equipment for a weeklong training evolution.
“The Marines were interested in how we place the Patriot fire unit and all of the systems it takes to operate it,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Benjamin R. Ogden, the battalion commander of Battery D, 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command. “From the maintenance and communication to force protection and generic site layouts, there are different ways to position (the system).”
The Patriot missile launcher’s early warning system helps detect what planes are in the air, identify potential threats and then determine the whether hostile missiles have been launched.
“Things such as early warning, enemy engagements, identification and receiving more feeds from the joint community really help our guys in making informed decisions if we ever did have to process an engagement,” said U.S. Army Capt. Owen T. Tolson, an air defense officer with the battery. “Being able to use (the equipment) Futenma has to offer provides a one week snap shot of what it is to be deployed here at Futenma.”
While away from their home station of Kadena Air Base, the training event had soldiers working around the clock to train for rapidly setting up and tearing down radios and antennas, checking and drawing information from data sheets, and training as if a hostile missile were in the sky, heading toward key military installations on Okinawa.
The field training exercise prepares both services for real-world situation in which cooperation between all branches of the U.S. military stationed on Okinawa would come together and work as a team to defend the island, according to U.S. Marine Lt. Col. Michael D. Hicks, an operations officer with MACG-18, 1st MAW, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
Besides the learning about the placement and function of the system, the Marines discussed how they can operate with the soldiers in a deployed environment to better prepare for interoperability in the future.
“The joint integration aspect of our unit is really important,” said Tolson, a Dallas, Texas, native. “Our equipment and our operators really rely on the joint community to receive a better understanding of what’s going on in the air, and that only helps maximize our capabilities. Receiving more feedback from the joint community really helps our guys, so that we’re making informed decisions if we have to process an engagement.”