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Marine ACG-38 Refines Warfighting Capabilities
by U.S. Marine Corps 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
January 7, 2023

Marines and Sailors with Marine Air Control Group (MACG) 38 refined tactics for future maritime conflicts in the Indo-Pacific region during Exercise Steel Knight 2023. With units positioned across California and Arizona, MACG-38 tested components of Aviation Command and Control (AC2) in conjunction with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing’s (MAW) “Hub, Spoke and Node” model in preparation for the next fight.

Acting as the “Hub,” MACG-38 established a Tactical Air Command Center (TACC) aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, San Diego, California. With the TACC fully operational, MACG-38, in conjunction with 3rd MAW key leaders, facilitated command and control of air assets throughout the battlespace.

Concurrently, MACG-38 set up a “Spoke” at the Strategic Expeditionary Landing Field (SELF) at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center located in 29 Palms, CA in order to facilitate Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 16’s Assault Support requirements for Steel Knight 23.

December 6, 2022 - U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Alonso Guillen (Left) and U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Spencer Kirkwood, Low Altitude Air Defense gunners with 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense (LAAD) Battalion, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), use a Stinger Field Handling Trainer to practice tracking targets during exercise Steel Knight 23, on San Clemente Island, California. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joshua Brittenham)
December 6, 2022 - U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Alonso Guillen (Left) and U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Spencer Kirkwood, Low Altitude Air Defense gunners with 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense (LAAD) Battalion, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), use a Stinger Field Handling Trainer to practice tracking targets during exercise Steel Knight 23, on San Clemente Island, California. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joshua Brittenham)

From the SELF, Marines from MACG-38 were able to establish Forward Arming and Refueling Points (FARP) in conjunction with MV-22B Ospreys and CH-53E Super Stallions from MAG-16. From these remote locations, MACG-38 Marines were able to support the refueling of both MAG-16 aircraft and tactical air platforms including the F-35B Lightning II from MAG-13.

Off the coast of San Diego on San Clemente Island, MACG-38 also imbedded a platoon of Marines from 3d Low Altitude Air Defense (LAAD) Battalion with the 11th Marine Regiment in order to earn certification for the upcoming Marine Rotational Force-Darwin (MRF-D) deployment to Australia. While on San Clemente Island, LAAD Marines provided critical support for a large-scale Air Assault. During the exercise, LAAD gunners executed over a dozen live-fire shoots and earned their certification for MRF-D.

Steel Knight 23 also saw the establishment of organic Air Control Companies within 3rd MAW. In order to experiment with and force generate Multifunction Air Operations Centers (MAOC) without impact to global force management tasking, MACG-38 transferred personnel and equipment from MACS-1 Air Defense Company Bravo to MASS-3 (REIN) in order to reorganize Marine Air Support Squadron (MASS) 3 into three Air Control Companies and a Headquarters Company.

Under this new construct, MASS-3 was both able to support all I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) and 3rd MAW C2 functionalities and requirements over a broader spectrum by capturing MAOC personnel and equipment requirements, techniques, tactics, and procedures (TTPs), and training requirements. This initiative led to the Initial Operational Capability (IOC) of MASS-3 (REIN) Air Control Companies as well as the MAOC force generation event supporting 1st Marine Regiment’s MRF-D deployment.

As warfighting proves to be ever changing, 3rd MAW continues to implement concepts from Force Design 2030 through adversarial-minded war gaming and combat-driven exercises. During Steel Knight 23, 3rd MAW units participated in evolutions such as advanced naval base training, enhancing readiness and lethality in support of a maritime campaign.

As the Marine Corps’ largest aircraft wing, 3rd MAW remains combat-ready, deployable on short notice, and lethal when called into action.

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