By Senior Airman Andrew Bertain
PETERSON AIR FORCE, Colo. — Marines from Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 161, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, completed a two-week exercise based out of Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, Feb. 10, 2021.
VMM-161 conducted training in Colorado Springs for the opportunity to fly and train in a unique, joint environment.
“We are out here doing cold-weather training and high-altitude mountain terrain operations,” explained U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Roberto Lozano, VMM-161 avionics technician. “Being out here with the cold weather helps us understand our systems better so we can perform better in cold conditions.”
While learning how to operate in the new climate, VMM-161 practiced air logistics support, air evacuation, tactical recovery of personnel and aircraft, and combat assault transport.
On top of Colorado supplying an ideal environment for their training, Peterson AFB gave the Marines access to complete their training in a joint setting.
“Peterson has been a great help to VMM-161 by providing facilities and ramp space,” said U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Mills Maurtice, VMM-161 MV-22B pilot. “Peterson also gives us access to flying with our sister services down at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, and Butts Army AirField [at Fort Carson, Colorado].”
But months before the Osprey’s landed in the Rockies, Airmen at Peterson AFB started preparing and planning to support. The first agency to support was airfield management.
“We have been there since day zero almost. [VMM-161] started planning their exercise in November,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Phonkamon Gehres, 21st Logistics Readiness Squadron non-commissioned officer in charge of airfield management operations. “We help by coordinating, making sure they have the parking spots on the flightline, getting their information and passing it onto other agencies so we can make sure while they are here, they are well supported.”
After the Marines arrived, airfield management continued to watch and work closely.
“When they got here, we started to file their flight plans, keep track and flight-follow them when they were flying,” said Gehres. “There were three flights that came in late after our hours, so we stayed open for them to make sure that they got the support they needed.”
All the hard work allowed VMM-161 to attain mission and unit readiness.
“Being from California, we are not really exposed to the type of weather here at Peterson, so being able to get out of our comfort bubble and get out here and do some cold weather training allows us to continually maintain the tip of the spear,” said U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Mills Maurtice, VMM-161 MV-22B pilot. “This operation would not be possible without the help we received from Peterson Air Force Base and the Space Force out here. They’ve been very accommodating, and because of that, we got our mission done.”