Photo Information

Staff Sgt. David C. Danel, radio chief, and other Marines from the Maritime Special Purpose Force, move in to take out a suspected terrorist warehouse along with Marines from the Low Altitude Air Defense Detachment, Marine Air Control Group 38, during desert sustainment training exercises at the Udairi Ranges in Kuwait, April 24. Both units are part of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operation Capable) Camp Pendleton, Calif. During the exercise the Marines from LAAD provided perimeter security for the MSPF.

Photo by Staff Sgt. Sergio Jimenez

LAAD transforms to support MSPF, stay in the fight during desert training

27 Nov 2007 | Staff Sgt. Sergio Jimenez 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit

HELP WANTED: Motivated, aggressive, heavily armed unit with own vehicles and communications assets capable of providing perimeter security for a special purpose force during dangerous missions.

This was the figurative help wanted sign Maj. Edward J. Handler, Maritime Special Purpose Force commander placed on his window prior to deploying and it was the job Marines from the Low Altitude Air Defense detachment were eager to fill.

Both units are part of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), Camp Pendleton, Calif., and are on a six month deployment through the Persian Gulf Region in support of the Global War on Terrorism.

According to Handler, what he needed were Marines who could augment his current security element which was being provided by 2nd Platoon, A Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment.

Rather than wait for job seekers, Handler went out and found them himself.

According to 1st Lt. Chad E. Troyer, LAAD detachment commander, Marine Air Control Group 38, from Bunker Hill, Ind., although LAAD’s traditional mission is to protect ground troops from aerial attacks, Handler approached him with an assignment that was tailor-made for his Marines. LAAD’s secondary mission is to provide security for other units.

“Since the MSPF is task-organized differently for various types of missions, LAAD is an ideal addition to our security element for a mission where we would do a vehicle hard hit, said Handler.

“LAAD comes heavy with vehicles, 240 Golfs[Automatic Machine Guns] and SAWs [M249 Squad Automatic Weapons] and multiple communications assets. We could fill his [Maj. Handler] need for drivers and gunners, so he could take his whole team inside the buildings or on the ground in order to isolate the objective and not waste any firepower,” said Troyer.

“This would give both the assault element and the security element flexibility of movement,” added Handler.

At a time when low altitude threats are minimal, and when all Marines, regardless of military occupational specialties, are having to brush up on their combat skills to fight an enemy who changes their tactics like the shifting desert sand, LAAD is eager to cross train to get into the fight.

According to Handler the idea of using LAAD as his security force came to him at the beginning of their workup cycle last year.

Handler said he also realized that due to personnel restructuring at the MEU, he would have to find additional security personnel from outside the BLT. “I naturally began wondering where I could come up with 15 motivated aggressive Marines that not only would be available, but also that would be interested in doing this type of mission.”

Having worked at Special Operations Training Group, Camp Pendleton, Calif., for several MEU cycles and having floated with two previous MEU's, Handler knew the LAAD detachment had the right number of bodies, had their own vehicles and also had communications assets in those vehicles. 

“When I dug deeper I was happily surprised to find out they had machine guns and a mustang lieutenant and his sergeant who were both former infantrymen.  This combination was a big bonus for me, but because of the busy work up schedule for their primary mission with the Aviation Combat Element and MEU, we were not able to bring the LAAD combo to the MSPF,” said Handler.

Handler also knew that in order to make the relationship work, he had to train with LAAD and expand their knowledge base.

By coincidence, in Kuwait, Handler got the chance to test the compatibility and feasibility of using LAAD. LAAD volunteered to help them out and MSPF agreed to give LAAD additional training with them on the ranges MSPF had scheduled.

According to Sgt. Mark K. McCue, section leader LAAD detachment, during desert sustainment training this week, both units worked very well together during various live-fire training scenarios in which the combined unit had to respond to convoy and village attacks, vehicle-borne improvised explosive device and IED attacks and take out terrorist targets in a realistic setting.

The collaboration and training was a complete success, said McCue.

“It turned out not only to be a win win situation for all of us, but also validated in my mind our ability to use them effectively in a tactical environment,” said Handler. 

After training, Troyer said his Marines learned a lot from working with MSPF and said he would welcome the opportunity to take part in future missions with them. 

When two different units from two different worlds in the Marine Corps can come  together to learn and combine their strengths, this only makes the Marine Corps stronger, said Troyer.

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