Beaufort pilots hone urban combat skills

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comApril 4, 2012 

Beaufort County residents might notice more fighter jets than usual this week as pilots and forward-air controllers from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort hone their urban-combat skills in the skies over Beaufort, Bluffton and Hilton Head Island, base officials say.

Pilots from Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224 will train in three sections of local airspace that typically are only open two days a month for military training.The Military Operation Areas extend from the northern part of Hilton Head Island to just north of the Coosaw River and from the coastline to about five miles west of Yemassee, base spokeswoman Lt. Sharon Hyland said.

The jets will fly at an altitude of about 5,000 to 7,000 feet. Pilots and forward-air controllers, pilots embedded with infantry and logistics units that are the link between air and ground forces, practice several scenarios.

"It could be something as simple as having to trying to find a big blue truck on the ground or we could have Marines dressed in civilian clothes standing on some random corner in Beaufort ... and they are the 'target,'" Hyland said. "They try to make the scenarios as realistic as possible. It's essential for the pilots and (forward air controllers) to train in this type of environment because these are the kinds of environments we've been fighting in for 10 years now."

Hyland said the jets will not be outfitted with bombs or any other weapons during this week's exercise.

"They are not going to be dropping anything," Hyland said. "Residents should not be concerned about that."

The training is expected to last until 7 p.m. tonight, according to base officials.

For more information about the air station, visit the base's Facebook page.

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