‘Werewolves’ arrive in Alaska, await training with Air Force
EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122 arrived in Alaska to take part in unit level training aboard Eielson Air Force Base, August 25, 2014.
Alaska is the final stop for VMFA-122 before heading home to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C.
For the past six months, VMFA-122, nicknamed the “Werewolves,” travelled throughout the Pacific region, participating in joint service exercises and ULTs as part of the unit deployment program with Marine Aircraft Group 12, stationed aboard Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan.
The purpose of the training in Alaska is to integrate with Pacific Command squadrons to refine VMFA-122 tactics, techniques and procedures, while using the Joint Pacific Range Complex to improve core skills.
“We’ve come here to do unit level training and I’ve asked the Marines to pay particular attention to the mission sets that we have a difficult time doing in Beaufort,” said Lt. Col. Douglas DeWolfe, commanding officer of VMFA-122. “One of the (mission sets) would be low-altitude training. We typically have to do that when we go out to (Naval Air Facility El Centro, Calif.) or out to (Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz.) when we operate out West, because there are not a whole lot of (fowls) around there.”
Training ranges in Alaska offer an opportune area for low altitude training, it’s sparsely populated and there are few feathered friends, which is important because pilots can fly as low as 300 feet during these missions.
DeWolfe also said that VMFA-122 is scheduled to train with the United States Air Force while at Eielson to better understand their tactics and share experiences between services.
The resident fighter squadron at Eielson is the 18th Aggressor Squadron. Their mission is to prepare Combat Air Force, joint and allied aircrews through realistic threat replication, training, test support, academics and feedback.
There are also two other United States Air Force F-16 squadrons visiting Eielson, the 35th and 80th Fighter Squadrons from Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea.
VMFA-122 recently trained with the 80th Fighter Squadron, nicknamed the “Headhunters,” during exercise Max Thunder at Gwangju Air Base, Republic of Korea. While the Werewolves have trained with the Air Force on a large scale, DeWolfe said this will be different.
“We will do some division training with the Air Force, who has their own tactics, techniques and procedures, while we have ours,’ said Maj. Roy Nicka, operations officer for VMFA-122. Sometimes they can be grossly different, so we are going to work closely with them in order to have a better understanding of each other’s TTPs, which translates into better interoperability.”
Being able to work with the Air Force and conduct low-altitude training will wrap up a six-month deployment that has tested and rewarded VMFA-122.
“From starting off with large force exercises in Korea, where we were practicing air-to-air and air interdiction missions, all the way to close-air-support (strike coordination and reconnaissance and armed reconnaissance) in Hawaii and then finishing up with low-altitude training in Alaska, I’m just very thankful for the opportunity we’ve had,” said DeWolfe. “The places we’ve deployed to have allowed us to cover almost all the mission areas that we need to maintain currency and proficiency in.”