MARINE FORWARD OPERATING BASE, Southern Afghanistan -- Augments are flowing into the desert airstrip here enhancing Marine Task Force-58's strength and capabilities in support of Operation Swift Freedom December 2, 2001.
Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) patrolled the open desert for enemy forces and AV-8 Harrier Jets dropped 500-pound bombs on targets here in Southern Afghanistan while additional light armored and anti-armor vehicles, attack aircraft and transport helicopters from other Marine units were moved to the forward operating base here.
"I'm really happy to be here as part of a great Marine team," Capt. Darin Fox, an UH-1N Huey helicopter pilot with the 26th MEU (SOC) said. "We all live by the same doctrine. We may be stationed on different coasts, but we are in the same Corps. We all have a common basis, and that basis is going to make us successful in everything we're asked to do."
The additional assets have nearly doubled the Marine Task Force's aircraft count and "significantly augmented the robust firepower" already here, according to Capt. David Romley, 31, the 15th MEU (SOC) public affairs officer and a Phoenix, Ariz. native.
The 26th MEU (SOC) is currently deployed to the North Arabian Sea aboard the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and has moved pilots and crewmen along with its Light Armored Reconnaissance assets, and Combined Anti-Armor Teams, UH-1N Hueys, AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters and medical personnel to the base camp. Its AV-8 Harrier attack jets are flying missions to and from the USS Peleliu and USS Bataan.
"We'll be trading off information as we work together," Fox said of the pilots from the West and East Coast MEUs. "They're showing us what has worked and what hasn't for the Marines who have been here this past week."
Heavy lifting CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters were flown from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., in Air Force C-5 Galaxy cargo jets to augment the 15th MEU (SOC).
"We got the call that they needed more lift power, so we packed up and here we are," said Maj. Richard L. Caputo, a Super Stallion pilot. "The Marine Corps can react as quick or quicker than any other force. We do this for a living."
Navy Sea Bees have arrived at the base camp and are working with Marine combat engineers and the 15th MEU's service and support element in improving the dirt-packed runway here. The construction battalion is also assisting to provide electricity, running water, field latrines and helicopter landing pads to the base camp.
"The makeshift helo pads will make landing in the terrible dust here much easier and safer," explained Capt. Douglas C. Sanders, 29, a Cobra pilot with the 26th MEU (SOC) and Orlando, Fla. native. "They provide a big reference point in addition to cutting down the dust. Being able to get a good reference point is the key to desert flying."
More assets, including the rest of the 26th MEU's battalion landing team, stand ready to complement the firepower already on the ground. The 13th MEU (SOC) pulled out of port in San Diego Dec. 1 creating the possibility that even more Marine muscle may soon be in the area.