FORT IRWIN, Calif. --
“Ready, aim, fire!” As a Stinger missile slices through the air, it leaves behind a distinct trail of smoke, igniting its target on contact as it crashes and bursts into a ball of flame on the ground below.Marines with 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Air Wing, conducted a Stinger missile fire exercise, Aug. 8-12, 2015, aboard National Training Center Fort Irwin, California.
During the exercise, Marines fired 60 Stinger missiles at remote-controlled airplanes to simulate a realistic encounter. Each team was equipped with a stinger missile, service rifles and an HMMWV tactical vehicle with a mounted machine gun.
The mission of 3rd LAAD is to provide close-in, low altitude, surface-to-air weapons fire, and provide security forces for the Marine air-ground task force commander’s designated vital areas. It is the only Ground-Based Air Defense capability in I Marine Expeditionary Force. It is the only Ground-Based Air Defense capability in I Marine Expeditionary Force.
The FIM-92 Stinger is a portable infrared homing surface-to-air missile which can be fired from ground vehicles or helicopters. The maximum effective range of this weapon is a staggering 26,400 feet with an altitude ranging between 600 and 12,500 feet.
“During the last 15 years, 3rd LAAD Bn. has executed multiple mission sets,” said Lt. Col. Michael C. McCarthy, commanding officer of 3rd LAAD Bn., MACG-38, 3rd MAW . “We conducted GBAD in support of I MEF during the opening stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, conducted ground security missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Djibouti, and Bahrain, and conducted GBAD for amphibious shipping for every West Coast Marine Expeditionary Unit.”
3rd LAAD is divided into two batteries, Battery A and Battery B. Each Marine within those batteries is responsible for ensuring the unit's mission is achieved.
“My noncommissioned officers are the best in the unit and they have taught me a lot,” said Lance Cpl. Damien N. Dalley, a LAAD gunner with 2nd platoon, Battery A, 3rd LAAD Bn. “For example, they taught me efficient ways to set up camouflage for our positions, how to approach and clear buildings, and how to talk over radios and fix them if they go down.”
This fire exercise is one of many opportunities 3rd LAAD uses to give their Marines realistic training and plays a crucial role in maintaining individual and unit readiness.
“It’s not so much what LAAD can give me, as it is how much I can give to it. I hope to get some good memories and experiences, but I want to be able to leave it better than it was when I got here,” said Dalley.
As one of two GBAD units in the Marine Corps, 3rd LAAD Bn. Marines continue to hone their unique and critical force protection and fires capability for the MAGTF.