AL JABER AIR BASE, Kuwait --
The AV-8B Harrier detachment for Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 (Reinforced), 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is currently conducting a series of bilateral training exercises with their Kuwaiti counterparts as part of exercise Eager Mace 2008.
The bilateral training here is expected to last until mid-July. During that time the Marine pilots and the Kuwaiti Air Force hope to increase their proficiency and expertise by sharing valuable flying experience and knowledge.
According to Capt. James Vallario, the Weapons and Tactics instructor for the detachment, the Harriers are conducting training with three different F/A-18 Hornet squadrons of the Kuwaiti Air Force and have had the opportunity to fly against very dissimilar aircraft and experience the difference in tactics and flying skills.
“The training has been very successful when the weather is cooperating. When we are able to get out and fly with them it has been phenomenal training,” explained Vallario.
“(The Kuwaitis) are very receptive to what we have to say and want to learn—they were an occupied country once (during the first Gulf War) so they take us very seriously.”
Of the fundamentals being taught to the Kuwaiti Air Force pilots, the focus of the training weighs heavily on close air support, a Marine aviation specialty. Vallario, a 31 year-old native of San Francisco, explained throughout the training evolution, the Marines are running the Kuwaitis through the ins and outs of close air support supporting training missions currently underway by the 15th MEU.
“We’re trying to share our tactics, techniques and procedures for how we conduct close air support—something they’re not as experienced with—so we are spending time with them showing how difficult and how challenging it can be to put ordnance in close proximity to friendly troops,” explained Vallario.
“It’s something that a lot of people claim to do very well, but few people actually can. The (Marine Corps) is very good at conducting close air support so we’re trying to teach (the Kuwaitis) as much as we can.”
For Maj. Fahad Al Douseri, operations officer with Squadron 9 of the Kuwaiti Air Force, flying with the Marines has been a pleasure not only for the shared camaraderie but also for the chance to fly with experienced pilots.
A pilot since 1989 and flying the F/A Hornet since 1994, this is the third time he has had the opportunity to work with his American counterparts, sharing the knowledge and experience each force has to offer.
“I think these exercises standardize things and build a really close relationship with each other,” said Al Al Douseri. “I think we can accomplish any mission (together).”
Having worked with U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy pilots, Fahad and his pilots share a kindred spirit with the Marines, he said.
“It is a very nice exercise especially working with the Marines. Not that the U.S. Air Force or Navy are different but the Marines are similar to us and share the same thoughts as we do,” said Al Al Douseri.
Ultimately, Al Al Douseri hopes the opportunity to work with the Marines standardizes tactics between the two forces, further enhancing their ability to work together; and if the need arises, ensures success if the two nations ever work together in a real world situation.
“One day we might at any time perform missions together and we will be more than able to communicate, interact and really know each other,” he said.
“To work with the Americans, it’s a really great opportunity for us to lift up our spirits. Since the Marines are really experienced we are more than happy to work with them.”
The Camp Pendleton, Calif., based 15th MEU is currently in Kuwait conducting sustainment training.