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Kadena, Marine units integrate for large-force exercise

A U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter from the 33rd Rescue Squadron flies off the coast of Okinawa, Japan, during a large force exercise June 30, 2015. The exercise, which integrated U.S. Air Force and Marine Corps assets on Okinawa, was designed to allow the units to practice air-to-air capabilities while supporting ground troops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Maeson L. Elleman/Released)

A HH-60G Pave Hawk from the 33rd Rescue Squadron flies off the coast of Okinawa, Japan, during a large-force exercise June 30, 2015. The exercise, which integrated Air Force and Marine Corps assets on Okinawa, was designed to allow the units to practice air-to-air capabilities while supporting ground troops. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Maeson L. Elleman)

A U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagle from the 44th Fighter Squadron taxis after landing during a large force exercise on Kadena Air Base, Japan, July 30, 2015. The fighter jets were in charge of gaining air superiority while protecting ground troops and rescue helicopters during the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zackary A. Henry/Released)

A F-15 Eagle from the 44th Fighter Squadron taxis after landing during a large-force exercise on Kadena Air Base, Japan, June 30, 2015. The fighter jets were in charge of gaining air superiority while protecting ground troops and rescue helicopters during the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Zackary A. Henry)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Kenton Lewis, 33rd Rescue Squadron special missions aviator, simulates hoisting a casualty from the water using a winch aboard a 33rd RQS HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter during a large force exercise near Okinawa, Japan, June 30, 2015. The exercise, which integrated U.S. Air Force and Marine Corps assets on Okinawa, was designed to allow the units to practice air-to-air capabilities while supporting ground troops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Maeson L. Elleman/Released)

Master Sgt. Kenton Lewis, a 33rd Rescue Squadron special missions aviator, simulates hoisting a casualty from the water using a winch aboard a 33rd RQS HH-60G Pave Hawk during a large-force exercise near Okinawa, Japan, June 30, 2015. The exercise, which integrated Air Force and Marine Corps assets on Okinawa, was designed to allow the units to practice air-to-air capabilities while supporting ground troops. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Maeson L. Elleman)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Kenton Lewis, 33rd Rescue Squadron special missions aviator, looks out a window of a 33rd RQS HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter during a large force exercise near Okinawa, Japan, June 30, 2015. During the exercise, numerous U.S. Air Force flying squadrons from Kadena Air Base, Japan, partnered with Vermont Air National Guard F-16 Vipers and U.S. Marine Corps units from Marine Corps Air Station on Okinawa in order to improve interservice interoperability in the region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Maeson L. Elleman/Released)

Master Sgt. Kenton Lewis, a 33rd Rescue Squadron special missions aviator, looks out a window of a 33rd RQS HH-60G Pave Hawk during a large-force exercise near Okinawa, Japan, June 30, 2015. During the exercise, numerous Air Force flying squadrons from Kadena Air Base, Japan, partnered with Vermont Air National Guard F-16 Fighting Falcons and U.S. Marine Corps units in order to improve interservice interoperability in the region. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Maeson L. Elleman)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan (AFNS) -- Flying squadrons from Kadena Air Base were a part of a joint service exercise here, with units from the Marine Corps to practice air-to-air superiority while protecting ground troops June 30.

Kadena AB’s 44th and 67th Fighter Squadrons practiced joint air operations with F/A-18 Hornets from the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (All Weather) 225 and several F-16 Fighting Falcons from Vermont Air National Guard's 158th Fighter Wing, while protecting Marine and Air Force helicopters and Marine ground troops.

"Working with the Marines provided an opportunity to see how to integrate the air piece with something on the ground," said Capt. Nathan Franklin, a 33rd Rescue Squadron pilot. "This is the first LFE I've been in that actually had a ground piece incorporated into an exercise. It was an interesting thing to see."

An important piece of the exercise was to practice air-to-air capabilities of deterrence while protecting ground troops and the rescue helicopters, all at the same time.

With the fighters halting any air offensive and preventing any further attack from overhead, it allowed the ground troops and the rescue helicopters to complete their mission without any fear of reprisal from the air, Franklin said.

"This exercise validated the tactic used," Franklin continued. "As long as we have rescue combat air patrol along with the fighters in the air, the enemy just doesn't have time to worry about what we are doing below, which means we can push forward and support them better."

It takes that cooperation between fighters, both Air Force and Marine, and helicopters to work together in order to make the mission as successful as possible.

"The Marines often work by helicopter insertion in order to take advantage of the element of surprise as well as improved mobility," said Marine Corps Capt. Chester Watts, the VMFA(AW)-225 schedules officer. "However, some threats both air-to-air, and surface-to-air make that too risky, which is why we have fighters responsible for eliminating those threats."

It's that flawless integration of both aircraft and U.S. services that provides for the common defense of Japan and the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

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