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NEWS | Nov. 29, 2011

Marines, National Guard conduct joint exercise in Hawaii

By Sgt. Elyssa Quesada 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii - AV-8B Harriers, F-15 Eagles and F-22 Raptors participated in a joint air-to-air exercise over Oahu, Hawaii, Nov. 20 to 22, during the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit's first port visit of its seven-month deployment.

The exercise marked the first time Harriers with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 268 (Reinforced) and Raptors with the Hawaiian Air National Guard's 19th Fighter Squadron trained together.

Pilots were exposed to different platforms and exercises that complemented each aircraft's support, improving overall interoperability, according Marine Capt. John D. Dirk, a Harrier pilot.

The integration training included a large-force exercise that included within visual ranger basic fighter maneuvering.

"The training definitely improved in the air-to-air arena, and the type of realistic training we received increased out air-to-air proficiency and overall capability," said Marine Harrier pilot Capt. Patrick Wherry.

The squadron is the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit's aviation combat element, which embarked USS Makin Island, USS New Orleans and USS Pearl Harbor in San Diego Nov. 14, beginning a deployment to the western Pacific and Middle East regions.