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Marines

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U.S. Marine Corps Col. Ryan P. Allen, Commanding Officer, Marine Air Control Group 48, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Forces Reserve, poses for a group photo with Marines with Marine Air Control Squadron (MACS) 24 at Fort Greely, Alaska, Feb. 10, 2024, in preparation for exercise ARCTIC EDGE 2024 (AE24). “Joint training opportunities like Arctic Edge 24 allow the Marines to cultivate proficiency and lethality, while developing the skills necessary to operate in the arctic environment,,” said Allen. AE24 is a U.S. Northern Command-led homeland defense exercise demonstrating the U.S. Military's capabilities in extreme cold weather, joint force readiness, and U.S. military commitment to mutual strategic security interests in the Arctic region. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Jestin Costa)

Photo by Staff Sgt. Jestin Costa

Any Clime and Place: Reserve Marines field test radar system in Alaska in support of Arctic Edge 2024

7 Mar 2024 | Pfc. Nicholas Bryan U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve

In the unforgiving cold of Alaska, U.S. Marines with Marine Air Control Squadron 24 (MACS-24), Marine Air Control Group (MACG) 48, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Forces Reserve field-tested an AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar (G/ATOR) in support of exercise Arctic Edge 2024 (AE24) at Fort Greely, Alaska, Feb. 10, 2024.

“Any clime and place,” is a historically proven ethos highlighted in the Marines hymn, and ingrained within individual Marines, as a symbolic message that United States Marines are prepared to fight and win in any climate, time, or location, across the entire globe. Arctic Edge, an annual U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) led exercise, provides the Marine Corps an opportunity to not only operate within a joint environment, but also field test their gear and equipment in some of the harshest weather conditions on earth.

“Joint training opportunities like Arctic Edge 24 allow the Marines of Marine Air Control Squadron 24 to cultivate proficiency with the AN TPS-80 G/ATOR radar system’s functions and lethality, while developing the skills necessary to operate in the arctic environment,” said Col. Ryan Allen, Commanding Officer, Marine Air Control Group 48.

The AN/TPS-80 G/ATOR is a crucial component of the Multifunction Air Operations Center (MAOC), directly supporting joint aviation units and aircraft across the entire Alaskan airspace. This mission essential equipment coordinates air traffic, provides radar surveillance, and offers real-time information concerning potential air threats, enabling air control squadrons to effectively manage and de-conflict airspace, while ensuring the safety and efficiency of joint air operations.

“Marine Air Control Squadron 24, like its active-duty counterpart squadrons, provides expeditionary aviation command and control in support of Marine aviation and the joint force,” stated Allen. “MACS-24 routinely trains with other Marine Corps units, joint force units, and our ally partner nation military forces to ensure the level of readiness necessary to defend the U.S. in time of need.”

The G/ATOR and the MAOC are proven highly mobile and agile capabilities, serving as significant force multipliers for the Marine Corps, the Joint Force, as well as ally militaries. The technological and timely advantages they provide are proven ready to serve in any fight and endure any climate across the globe, whether the mission calls for defense of North America or necessitates the support of an offensive front on foreign soil.

“The AN/TPS-80 G/ATOR radar, which is a three-dimensional, expeditionary, medium-range multi-role radar capable of detecting low-observable, low-radar-cross-section targets such as cruise missiles, manned aircraft, and unmanned aerial systems … is employed by the MAGTF across the range of military operations and provides significant range, detection, and target classification against existing and evolving threats,” said Allen.

The MAOC, a portable, field-expedient, air operations center utilizing information gained from the AN TPS-80 G/ATOR, is a task organized tactical agency that enables the integration of the tactical picture for the operating environment in order to control aircraft and missiles, enable decision making superiority, gain and maintain custody of adversary targets, hold those adversary targets at risk, and enable the engagement of targets in all domains as directed in support of the Marine Corps, naval, joint, ally, and partner forces.

Maj. Sergio Abreu, MACG 48, detachment officer-in-charge for exercise ARCTIC EDGE 24 said, “the strategic advantage of the MAOC, and the technological advantage of the AN/TPS-80 G/ATOR, allow us to control the airspace in near real-time on a mobile platform. We’re proving, in extreme arctic conditions, that Marines can operate at any time and place of our choosing and enable the six functions of Marine Corps aviation within the battlespace.”

The MAOC and the AN/TPS-80 G/ATOR work together to detect, identify, and track airborne threats common to combat environments. These include cruise missiles, aircraft and remotely piloted vehicles, as well as rocket, artillery and mortar fire.

Highlighting the radar system's versatility, Capt. Drew Noble, an air defense control officer with MACS-24, emphasized, "The advantage of this system is that it is very mobile. The Radar Marines could probably set this up and take it down in 30 minutes or less, whereas the old AN/TPS-59s could take a few hours. It is much more maneuverable, which allows us to deploy it in more locations."

This exercise posed a new challenge for MACS-24: The arctic weather. They had never before field-tested the G/ATOR system in temperatures that reached as low as -63 degrees. Most of the systems' lowest operating temperatures are -40 degrees.

“Usually, we operate in deserts. We’re used to being out in a dry and heavy heat environment,” said Cpl. Dwayne Johnson, a tactical data systems technician with MACS-24. “This happens to be the complete opposite here. It is a really dry cold. It took us much longer to get all our gear operational.”

The Marines’ experience while training in this previously-unknown environment highlights the intent behind Arctic Edge. They understand that the location and climate of the last conflict may not be the same as the next. Despite operating in extreme arctic conditions, these Marines are showcasing their ingenuity, unity, and resilience as a cohesive fighting force. The shift in environment highlights the Marines' ability to adapt to extreme conditions.

“During the test, the AN/TPS-80 withstood wind gusts exceeding 60 miles an hour,” said Noble. “The Utility Marines, the Motor T Marines, the Radar Marines, the Tactical Data System Marines, all worked together to set this up. All the Marines fought tirelessly. It was very, very impressive.”

As part of the joint exercise, MACS-24 is operating in tandem with several Army, Air Force, and joint units, such as 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command, 601st Air Operations Command, North American Aerospace Defense Command, and NORTHCOM.

Abreu stated, "We faced challenges warming up our gear, and the Army generously provided their torpedo heaters. Additionally, there was a reciprocal exchange where we lent them our generators."

Despite battling technical complexities and enduring the biting cold, the Marines upheld their morale. Johnson stated, "We were able to keep the morale up during setup because we were still having fun. It was kind of like 'trauma bonding,' you know, embracing the suck. We all acknowledged that it sucked, but we found ways to have fun with it."

Aside from the exercise training value of operating in the harsh climate of an Alaskan winter, and the bonding which occurs under such harsh conditions, the MAOC, and the diligent Marines of MACG-48, have also directly contributed to the real-world MEDEVAC of multiple joint service personnel who were injured during the exercise and required immediate medical assistance. The MAOC was able to immediately take charge of the vast airspace over multiple training areas, de-conflict military aircraft, and reroute civilian aircraft, in order to facilitate life-saving medical care for the injured personnel.

“The MAOC and the G/ATOR have operated flawlessly,” said Abreu, “even when temperatures dipped to a blistering -63°. We are confident our Marines and our equipment are ready to fight tonight whenever, and wherever when called upon. You would be surprised at the level of creativity and ingenuity Marines are able to achieve.”

Through shared experiences and triumphs, the Marines of MACS-24 have forged an unbreakable bond, showcasing their ability to thrive, not just survive, in the face of the harshest environmental conditions as the exercise continues to unfold.

Sgt. Alec Bean, a utility technician with MACS-24, shared, “I think we’re probably one of the only Marine Corps units that’s ever done this in these negative temperatures, so I’ll take that knowledge with me the next time I have to do something like this."

Thanks to their experience in Alaska throughout Arctic Edge 2024, MACS-24 will be able to incorporate the lessons learned, and the resiliency they’ve acquired from navigating extreme negative temperatures, into any future challenges or threats.
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ARCTIC EDGE 24 is a U.S. Northern Command-led homeland defense exercise demonstrating the U.S. military’s capabilities in extreme cold weather, joint force readiness, and U.S. military commitment to mutual strategic security interests in the Arctic region.

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WHO WE ARE: The United States Marine Corps Reserve is responsible for providing trained units and qualified individuals for mobilization to active duty in time of war, national emergency, and crisis or contingency operations. On a day-to-day basis, Marine Forces Reserve (MARFORRES) consists of a talented and dedicated pool of nearly 100,000 Marines able to augment the Active Component in a myriad of ways, to include operational deployments, support to training, participation in bi/multi-lateral exercises with partner nations and allies, and service-level experimentation in support of Force Design 2030 and refinement of new concepts, tactics, techniques, and procedures.

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