CAMP KOREAN VILLAGE, Iraq -- In Iraq, it is common to see Marine helicopters overhead, crisscrossing the sky. The humming of engines and beating sound of spinning rotors reach out across the desert landscape, telling of an approaching arsenal.
The mission of Marine helicopter pilots is to safely move Marines and equipment, provide close air support, and respond to the emergency evacuation of wounded Marines and Sailors.
The conduit between 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) forces outside of the wire and the pilots in western Al Anbar Province, Iraq are the 15th MEU (SOC) Marines of the Direct Air Support Center (DASC), Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 (Reinforced).
“Our job consists of processing immediate requests for the ground units. Any time they need air support, air-strike, troop lift, immediate med-evac (medical evacuation), they call us, and we process the request,” said Sgt. Britinee A. Gillooly, DASC crew chief.
Though their job is mostly behind-the-scenes, the results are evident every time a Marine helicopter lifts off, according to Cpl. P.J. Burkett, air support network operator. “We basically tie the air to the ground. We’re the control that gives the [pilots] who they need to talk to on the ground, and the ground-crew who they need to talk to in the air,” said Burkett.
The troops on the ground know the necessity of close air support and of the Marines who coordinate with the pilots, according to 1st Lt. Jill M. Ruddy, Transportation Support Detachment officer-in-charge, Combat Logistics Battalion 15. “Close-air support helps us successfully and safely get to our destination and conduct combat logistics re-supply,” said Ruddy.
The Marines of DASC serve to provide maximum support with minimum delay for Marines conducting operations and are a critical element in ground and air operations by expediting the process of calling for air support, according to Ruddy.
The air-support the DASC Marines provide is a source of satisfaction to the Marines who coordinate with the ground elements and the pilots, especially when the air support the DASC coordinates helps accomplish a mission, according to Burkett.
The most important asset the DASC Marines provide is the life-saving availability of medical support to Marines in and outside the wire, according to Gillooly. “When we call med-evacs, when we’re able to get a bird launched for them in a matter of minutes and get them out of there, it’s really gratifying,” Gillooly said.
The units on the ground are aware of the importance of close air support and feel more confident because DASC Marines can coordinate air support if needed, according to Gillooly. “There are a lot of ground units who know who we are and what we do, and they’re very grateful for the DASC,” Gillooly said.
The availability of close air support gives Marines leaving the wires an added sense of security in accomplishing their mission, according to Ruddy. “Knowing I can call for air support makes the convoy more offensive in nature and brings us more firepower to the fight,” Ruddy said.