U.S. Marine Corps pilots are trained to operate advanced aircraft
in often dangerous situations. These pilots are the only aviators in
the U.S. military who are taught the basics of infantry tactics
prior to flight school. This ensures every Marine is a rifleman.
Though the chances of an aviator leading a platoon of infantry
Marines are slim to none, there are cases where pilots are embedded
in infantry units.
Capt. David "Tuck" Miller, a CH-53 Super
Stallion pilot, is one of those pilots. Miller, a native of
Queenstown, Maryland, is a Forward Air Controller with 1st
Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, "Lava Dogs".
October 31, 2017 - U.S. Marine Corps Capt. David "Tuck" Miller, a
CH-53 Super Stallion pilot, prepares to conduct a simulated night
raid with multiple rifle squads during an air assault training event
at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan. Miller is
currently participating in Blue Chromite 18 in Okinawa, Japan.
Miller is a forward air controller (FAC) with 1st Battalion, 3rd
Marine Regiment attached to 3rd Marine Division, III Marine
Expeditionary Force under the Unit Deployment Program. Miller is a
native of Queenstown, Maryland. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt.
“As a CH-53 pilot, I always have the opportunity to
transport grunts in the back of my aircraft so this is just
one more way where I can work closely with them and support
them,” said Miller.
As the FAC, Miller is in charge
of directing close air support and other offensive air
operations. FACs are pilots who are tasked out from the
aviation field to directly support ground combat units. The
FACs are typically senior aviators who have spent at least
two years in a fleet squadron, according to Miller. The
prospects are sent to Tactical Air Control Party School to
learn the fundamentals of close air support and how to call
for fire. This allows the pilot to be a valuable asset when
finally attached to an infantry unit.
“He speaks from the air side of the
house and he knows what the pilots are saying and what they
are looking for from us infantry guys, so he's able to
bridge that gap between the two communities,” said 1st Lt.
Harry Walker, the fire support team leader.
pilots touch base with the infantry units, they are
indoctrinated into a completely different culture for almost
“Coming from the air wing and going head
first into an infantry battalion, it’s a little bit of a
culture shock just because you do have all those hikes and
spend a lot time in the field,” said Miller. “After I
graduated from [The Basic School], I don’t think I spent one
night in the field and then the first night I was out with
the battalion I slept under the stars, but it’s still good
to be here.”
The FAC billet is a not only beneficial
for the infantry units but also great for the pilot
executing the position, according to Miller.
them it’s all about the mission,” said Miller. “So as an
aviator, it pushes me to be more studious and when I get
back to the cockpit, I’ll be a better aviator.”
Lava Dogs are currently forward-deployed for six months to
Okinawa, Japan as part of the Unit Deployment Program. The
battalion is tasked to provide a forward-deployed combat
ready unit for in support of theater requirements.
By U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Carl King
The U.S. Marines
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