U.S. Marine Corps 120M graders assigned to Marine Wing Support Detachment 31 level the terrain during Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) 1-18 aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., Nov. 3, 2017. ITX is a large-scale, combined-arms training exercise intended to produce combat-ready forces capable of operating as an integrated Marine Air Ground Task Force. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Kowshon Ye)

MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif.,–Marine Wing Support Detachment 31, which is based out of Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C., supported Integrated Training Exercise 1-18 through the reconstruction of three helicopter landing zones at training area Lead Mountain, Nov. 1- 13. The reconstruction of the landing zones allows for sufficient support of rotary operating wings aboard the Combat Center which, in turn, allows the wing to conduct the training necessary to remain an effective fighting force.
MWSD-31 was assigned to rebuild the landing zones in place of a Marine Wing Support Squadron. This means that the detachment was expected to provide the same level of quality and proficiency with a lack of personnel. This manpower deficiency provided the detachment with a unique set of challenges during the rebuilding.

A U.S. Marine Corps 120M grader assigned to Marine Wing Support Detachment 31 levels the terrain during Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) 1-18 aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., Nov. 3, 2017. ITX is a large-scale, combined-arms training exercise intended to produce combat-ready forces capable of operating as an integrated Marine Air Ground Task Force. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Kowshon Ye)

We successfully prepared for
this exercise with the amount of
heavy equipment operators and
equipment we need to
complete the mission,
said Staff Sgt. Jorge Gonzales, heavy
equipment operator chief, MWSD-31.
Being understaffed presented
challenges coordinating
with support and we had
to pull from our internal
resources but overall the
Marines worked very hard
and met the time line set
forth for completion of the
landing pads.
The landing zones are designed to last for a short period of time, resulting in reconstruction every six months to a year. The process consists of surveying the land to determine its natural layout and slope, a route reconnaissance and an engineer reconnaissance. After drafting all of the information, the operator chief is able to relay the knowledge to the equipment operators so they can begin the labor. With the repeated updates of the HLZs, opportunities to conduct training readiness events are provided frequently.

A U.S. Marine Corps 624KR Tractor, Rubber-tired, Articulated Steering, Multipurpose vehicle assigned to Marine Wing Support Detachment 31 dumps gravel during Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) 1-18 aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., Nov. 3, 2017. ITX is a large-scale, combined-arms training exercise intended to produce combat-ready forces capable of operating as an integrated Marine Air Ground Task Force. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Kowshon Ye)

I find this project to be
very beneficial to our unit,”
said Cpl. Elmer Araiza,
heavy equipment operator,
MWSD-31.
“The dirt gear
is like a language, so being
able to come participate
in this project allows us to
hone our skills.
According to Gonzales, the reconstruction of the landing zones is not only important to the unit, but to the Marine Corps and the public. It provides a real life scenario to better train Marines in the event of a deployment, rendering them unfailingly ready to answer the Nation’s call.