Marine Exercise Begins With Historic Landing

Boeing 747-400 aircraft 600x400

TINIAN, Northern Mariana Islands -- Exercise Forager Fury 2012 officially began Nov. 28 as a Boeing 747-400 aircraft made history by being the first 747 to land at West Field here, delivering 160,000 pounds of equipment vital for execution of the exercise.

Forager Fury is a Marine Aircraft Group 12 training exercise that will integrate Marine Air-Ground Task Force functions with an emphasis on tactical aviation and aviation ground support to further develop distributed, expeditionary airfield capabilities.

“We needed to get all our equipment down here: fuel bladders, arresting gear, tents and everything we need to run the airfield for our MAG-12 fixed-wing aircraft while also supporting Navy helicopters,” said Maj. Matthew Halbert, the airfield operations company commander and Tinian officer in charge for Marine Wing Support Squadron 171, MAG-12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “The airlift proved to be a great asset, and the landing proves a 747 can come into Tinian. It showed everybody what you can do with this airfield.”

Any questions about the durability and size of the runway were answered as the 747 rolled down the taxiway under a setting sun and full moon.

“The runway was pretty much the same length as (Marine Corps Air Station) Iwakuni’s,” said Peter Pecenicic, the captain of the airplane with 21 years of experience flying 747s.

The goal of Forager Fury, which is scheduled to be conducted through Dec. 19, is to allow MAG-12 to demonstrate its ability to generate significant combat power in an expeditionary environment while building relationships with the local community. During Forager Fury, Marines will conduct arrested landings and provide fuel storage and distribution for MAG-12 aircraft at Tinan’s West Field and clear, strip and repair the landing surface on runways at Tinian’s North Field.

“MAG-12 is always anxious to train on Tinian because the people of Tinian are very welcoming, appreciative and accommodating,” said Maj. Jonathan Kehr, the logistics officer for MAG-12.

Planning for Forager Fury began in the summer, and an advance party of Marines arrived Nov. 27 to prepare for the group’s equipment arriving on the 747.

“We started planning for (the exercise) in August, and even before that, we were looking at what we were going to do when we got here,” said Halbert. “The event tonight has been smooth because of our logistical support, planning and all of the coordination of MAG-12’s aircraft.”

The people of Tinian expressed a warm welcome to the Marines and thanked them for returning after training on Tinian earlier this year.

“For a long time, our people have wanted Marines on the island,” said Ramon Dela Cruz, the mayor of Tinian. “We know that the Marines would bring about a great economic opportunity to the people of Tinian. We welcome them and I hope in the future more will come. We encourage all of [the Marines] to come back as often as possible. We will always welcome them, and we hope they continue to return.”

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