Photo Information

Lance Cpl. Miguel Salazar, an unmanned aerial vehicle technician with Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 4, Marine Aircraft Group 41, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Forces Reserve, returns an RQ-7 Shadow to the VMU-4 hanger at Camp Wilson, Marine Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California, June 22, 2017. VMU-4 provided aerial reconnaissance in support of the 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, MARFORRES final battalion exercise of ITX 4-17. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Stanley Moy)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Imari Dubose

Eyes in the sky; VMU-4 supports ground combat element at ITX 4-17

26 Jun 2017 | Lance Cpl. Imari Dubose Marine Corps Forces Reserves

U.S. Marines with Marine Unmanned Aerial Squadron 4, Marine Aircraft Group 41, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Forces Reserve, are taking part in Integrated Training Exercise 4-17 from June 8 to July 7, 2017.

VMU-4 Marines are supporting the exercise in two week rotations with each rotation culminating in the ground combat element final battalion exercise.

ITX is the largest annual exercise of the Reserve component. The exercise employs combined arms training events that incorporate live fire and maneuver and focuses on utilization of the Marine Air Ground Task Force.

Once ITX 4-17 is complete, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, MARFORRES and 2nd Bn., 24th Marines, will become the Marine Corps’ ready bench forces, first to be called upon to augment and reinforce the active component in support of a contingency response or as part of a theater security cooperation mission.

VMU-4 has been a component of the ITX air combat element for four years. The squadron is supporting the battalions by providing unmanned aerial route reconnaissance and enemy surveillance to ground forces for the Mechanized Assault Course.

“Using video surveillance we can tell the ground unit we’re supporting what dangers they’re heading towards,” said Gunnery Sgt. Daniel Rendon, an avionics maintenance technician with VMU-4. “We let them know the size, location and other details of enemy forces, better preparing Marines to face that enemy.”

The squadron has also used unmanned aerial reconnaissance for indirect fire support and close air support during ITX 4-17 company and battalion attacks.

VMU-4’s RQ-7 Shadow delivers a wide range of capabilities, including a communications relay package. This allows units to communicate with each other via radio in locations geographically separated by landmarks that would usually intercept all signals.

An objective of ITX 4-17 is to provide challenging, realistic training that produces combat-ready forces capable of operating as an integrated MAGTF. Completing two four to six hour missions a day through the friction of operating outside in record high temperatures, the Marines of VMU-4 are proving that they have the resilience to sustain operations under punishing conditions.

“They love operating out here in the field,” said Lt. Col. Paul Marko, commanding officer of VMU-4. “It’s hot but Marines operate the best in austere and uncomfortable environments.”

The Marines of VMU-4 will continue to conduct realistic training during their monthly drill period. For the first time, this August, the squadron will partner with the Camp Pendleton Game Warden Office to execute unmanned aerial reconnaissance as part of a wildlife survey where the squadron is based in Camp Pendleton, California.

The RQ-7 Shadow provides advantages over the regular method of wildlife surveying, which is conducted with a helicopter. The RQ-7 Shadow is considerably quieter and less likely to scare animals from the survey area. It uses much less fuel. Because the aircraft is equipped with an infrared camera, the survey can also be conducted at night.

While they look forward to future training opportunities, for the next couple of weeks, VMU-4 will remain focused on supporting the ground combat element at ITX 4-17.

“Our mission is to support the ground fighters and support the convoys,” Rendon said. “We provide eyes in the sky so Marines can come home safely.”