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Yuma squadron schools up on Corps' newest mobile ATC gear

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Marine Air Control Squadron 1’s newest detachment at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Ariz., now also has the newest mobile air traffic control equipment in the Corps.

The gear will allow the Diablos of Detachment D, to embrace the Corps’ constant quest toward ever more mobile warfare. While the gear is more compact - it packs up into three Humvees - the official name is anything but. The Army Navy/Transportable Navigational Aid Air Traffic Navigation, Integration and Coordination System, consists of a radar dish, communications and control system, navigational aid equipment and a command module. Using the radar and communications systems in one Humvee, the Diablos can track aircraft movement while keeping in contact with pilots. They can also guide aircraft using the navigational equipment in another Humvee. All these operations are controlled from the command module attached to the back of the last Humvee. Since the equipment is so new to the Corps, the Diablos received the second AN/TPN-31A issued to a Marine unit and the first in Yuma. The other system is currently in Afghanistan. Making a small footprint on the battlefield, the gear can be set up in half the time. “Before it would take a detachment of Marines eight hours to set up our equipment,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jeremy Scarbrough, detachment maintenance and material officer. “With the new equipment, it takes six Marines four hours to set up.” In addition to the small scale, the equipment is more mobile, overcoming the reliance on heavy equipment, like 7-ton trucks and cranes, to set up. With the increased mobility however, the Diablos have sacrificed ATC coverage. “The new gear can only cover 25 nautical miles with primary and secondary radar,” said Scarbrough. “While that’s less than the old equipment, we don’t normally need any more than that.” After receiving the gear Jan. 19, 2010, the Diablos went to work getting their Marines qualified to use the new gear. During a six-week course, the Marines learn everything about the equipment, including delivery, use, repair and maintenance, said Charles Dowdy, civilian instructor. “Everyone in the detachment will know their job when it comes to its maintenance and use,” said Scarbrough. The Diablos are slated to deploy to Afghanistan later this year, as part of a Marine air control group, where they will likely use the gear.