Marines set up camp at HAFB
Werewolves have come to the Tularosa Basin and plan to stay for another two weeks.
The Daily News
By Laura London, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 04/03/2008 12:00:00 AM MDT
They are the VMFA-122 Werewolves, a Marine fighter attack squadron from Marine Corps Air Station Beufort, S.C. The squadron has come to Holloman Air Force Base to train on its F-18 Hornets in the desert expanses of the Southwest.
"We don't have anything like this in South Carolina," Lt. Col. Douglas Douds, commanding officer of VMFA-122, said about the training ranges his squadron members have used during their stay at Holloman. "We couldn't be more pleased."
Douds also said he was pleased with the support local residents have shown, especially in light of the squadron "flying around all night."
Capt. Devin Myler, an F-18 pilot, mentioned the Werewolves came to Holloman last week. Jets arrived March 25 and the main body of support Marines on March 26. He explained the squadron is practicing air-to-ground operations for its upcoming deployment.
Douds said the Werewolves will be at Holloman until about the middle of April. They will also go to Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Ariz., at the end of May, the last such training before their deployment to CENTCOM AOR, or the Middle East, sometime at the end of summer.
Douds said Werewolf training at Holloman has been a great experience, with plenty of opportunities for both junior and senior pilots to practice.
"We can do stuff here we can't do on the East Coast," Douds said. "We don't get to do ridge line crossings in South Carolina."
Douds said Wednesday the squadron was finished with low altitude training and was going to start live ordnance training. Myler said the squadron conducted much of its low altitude training over the weekend, explaining that low-level training is 300 feet off the ground at 480 knots, or about 552 mph.
Douds said the Werewolves keep a 24-hour operating schedule Tuesday through Thursday.
"We train at the same operational tempo as the theater (of battle)," he said.
Myler explained the 24-hour operating schedule is standard for the Werewolves. The Marines work 12 hours, then are off 12 hours. He said being able to fly at night is important to the squadron's mission, but they don't get to do as much of it on the East Coast.
"People don't like the noise at night," he said.
He mentioned Tuesday night's flying at Holloman lasted until 2:45 a.m. Wednesday morning.
Myler said the Werewolves came to Holloman with 12 Hornets and almost 200 Marines, which includes 18 pilots; a number of operations, planning, intelligence and other personnel; and roughly 150 Marines to maintain the Hornets, which works out to about a dozen per plane.
"It's significantly smaller than an Air Force or Navy squadron," Myler observed.
Myler said the 12 Hornets and 200 Marines comprise a self-sustaining detachment. They have everything they need with them everywhere they go, whatever they are doing. He called the Werewolves "dedicated professionals," which he said makes them easy to work with.
During a tour of the Werewolves' working space at Holloman, Myler pointed out some equipment the Marines brought with them.
"Even for a three-week stay, we have this huge quantity of equipment," he said.
A lot of Marines with a variety of skills work on the Hornets as well, according to Myler. He listed power line Marines, air frame Marines, ordnance Marines and COMNAV, or electric shop, Marines. As for the Hornet aircraft itself, Myler had rave reviews.
"It's very capable. It's been around for a while the design, at least," he said. "The Marine Corps uses it because it's very dynamic and we can use it for almost any environment ... (for) both air-to-ground and air-to-air missions."
He said Hornets have been with the Werewolves since 1988. The planes the squadron brought to Holloman were built in the mid-1990s and have been upgraded for the dual role of air-to-air and air-to-ground operations, according to Myler. Hornets can drop both laser-guided and GPS-guided bombs.
"The reason why we (Werewolves) exist is to support Marines on the ground," Myler said.
For air-to-air combat, Hornets have heat-seeking A-9 missiles ready at their wingtips, as well as a Gatling gun in the front that shoots 20 mm rounds through a small hole just above the nose of the aircraft. Located on either side of that hole are two smaller openings, which serve to evacuate air to cool the system and allow gasses to escape.
Myler said the Gatling gun can fire 6,000 rounds per minute. Squeezing the trigger for one second will deploy 100 rounds.
Myler said the Marine Corps' Hornets are designed differently than most Air Force planes because they need to be able to land on aircraft carriers. He pointed out the Hornet's landing gear is bigger and heavier to withstand the tremendous forces involved in such landings.
Myler also pointed out the tail hook, also a help with those carrier landings. The tail hook extends hydraulically from the tail and grabs a cable stretched across the landing area. It can slow a Hornet from 180 mph to a dead stop in about 1 1/2 seconds. He noted the entire aircraft is built around the tail hook.
"It's designed to absorb force more than a normal plane would," Myler said.