AL DHAFRA AIR BASE, United Arab Emirates – Al Dhafra Air Base hosts several units from across the world and recently began hosting the mission of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit.
The composite squadron is making use of the base while their amphibious assault ship, USS Kearsarge, is in scheduled maintenance.
“Our Marines are here because the Kearsarge is currently in Bahrein for mid-deployment vessel repair for 10 days,” said Capt. Jason Granzella, 22nd MEU AV-8B Harrier II pilot. “In order for us to maintain currency and proficiency as well as support combat operations we offloaded land-side to Al Dhafra.”
The Black Knights brought several Harriers, a flight pilots and more than 50 maintainers.
“We are supporting Operation Freedom Sentinel, which is to support the Afghan National Army through the U.S. coalition in Afghanistan,” said Maj. Joe “Simple” Swindell, 22nd MEU AV-8B Harrier II pilot. “We’ll also be able to participate in exercise Desert Flag next month.”
“We try to get out and perform missions daily, every so often taking a day for a maintenance day,” said Swindell.
The team works towards a balance of utilizing their unique capabilities and readiness.
“We have a top-of-the-line air-to-ground avionics suite. Air-to-ground is our primary mission, but we are air-to-air capable,” said Swindell.” We have optimized sensors to include our targeting pod and weapon systems which is built around close air support to support Joint Terminal Attack Controllers and their airstrike requests.”
Swindell said when referring to supporting current operations, “It’s awesome, it’s the whole point of why we train back home and learn to fly the aircraft, so we can support the guys on the ground. It is great being a part of the bigger picture.”