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U.S. Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Madison Hamby, an air support control officer with Marine Corps Air Support Squadron (MASS) 2, @1stmaw_marines is currently reinforcing 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade’s (MEB) exercise Yama Sakura 81. Hamby works in the air coordination cell where her primary function is to source aircraft to support logistics, casualty evacuation, and close air support. "There is a huge learning curve when it comes to this exercise," Hamby said. "It requires a higher level of thinking than usual, and you get to learn about the different joint forces and agencies involved.” Hamby, a native of Purlear, NC, has only been stationed in Okinawa for two months but has already found herself to be an important asset for Yama Sakura (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl Cameron Carawan).

Photo by Cpl. Cameron Carawan

Fly Now, Fight Now - 1st MAW Marines reinforce 3D MEB for Yama Sakura 81

22 Dec 2021 | 2nd Lt. Jed Arend 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade

OKINAWA, Japan – U.S. Marines from 1st Marine Air Wing reinforced the 3D Marine Expeditionary Brigade during Yama Sakura 81 with Marines and Sailors from other elements of III Marine Expeditionary Force as well as Japanese soldiers from Japan Ground Self-Defense Force’s Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, and U.S. soldiers from the 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade Dec. 7 to Dec. 12, 2021 at Camp Courtney, Okinawa, Japan.

U.S. Marines from 1st MAW provided critical command and control capabilities to 3D MEB and the ARDB during the entire Yama Sakura 81 exercise, an event that focused heavily on air combat power in both expeditionary advance base operations and stand-in force concepts. Coming from multiple military occupational specialties and squadrons within the Marine Air Control Group, they teamed up for the execution of the exercise establishing the Aviation Coordination Cell (AvCC) in order to reinforce the MEB’s efforts.

“As a VMFA-121 augment to the 3d MEB, I was able to offer an operator’s perspective on how the F-35 may be implemented in large-scale, bilateral warfare in a manner that maximizes the MEB’s ability to take advantage of its 5th Gen capabilities.” Said Capt. William Horn an F-35 pilot with the Marine Air Control Group 18.

Daily operations of the AvCC include managing a multilateral airspace and monitoring both joint and organic aviation assets. The cell must understand the targeting process in order to work with the fires operators to interdict enemy forces and allocate assets to prosecute targets of opportunity. Managing the AvCC requires a complete understanding of both the air and ground scheme of maneuver as well as Marine Corps and naval aviation doctrine in order to control and coordinate the air fight at the MEB level and achieve the intent for the overall mission.

“We are grateful for the continued investment 1st MAW and MACG 18 put into exercise support to advance 3rd MEB’s ability to execute our mission whenever called upon,” said Maj. Brian Taylor Deputy Air Officer, 3D MEB. “The reinforcements provided enhanced our ability to conduct high level planning and coordination to synchronize air operations with Joint partners and our Japanese allies.”

Yama Sakura 81 is an annual command post exercise that focuses on improving the interoperability between JGSDF and U.S. Forces. Beginning in 1982, Yama Sakura has provided the opportunity for both forces to continually work together ensuring that they can rapidly react to counter aggression against Japan and other allies and partners. Training exercises like Yama Sakura are essential to maintaining peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region.

This year, 3D MEB and the ARDB play a part in the larger U.S. Army First Corps and JGSDF’s Army exercise events. Marines from other III Marine Expeditionary Force major subordinate commands assist the 3D MEB with non-organic structure and equipment, enabling 3D MEB to a provide rapidly-employable C2 node to conduct expeditionary advanced base and stand-in force operations as may be required against a near-peer adversary. 3D MEB remains a resilient, and ready force and is III MEF’s “Fire Brigade” crisis contingency task force.


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3D Marine Expeditionary Brigade