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Support Marines, Royal Air Force celebrate partnership in Afghanistan

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As part of Operation Rawhide II, an initiative intended to interdict and disrupt enemy activity along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, Marine Wing Support Squadron 373 was tasked with building forward arming and refueling points near the city of Bahram Cha, Afghanistan.

But MWSS-373 did not face this task alone. The Miramar, Calif., based squadron found helping hands from across the Atlantic in the Royal Air Force’s Tactical Supply Wing.

Tactical Supply Wing personnel are usually the first to arrive in an operational area and often the last to leave. They set up and maintain fuel support to for helicopters belonging to all branches of the British Armed Forces.

In celebration of the partnership they formed, Marines from MWSS-373, which is deployed in support of 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) and troops from the Royal Air Force met at the support squadron’s compound at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, March 24, just days before MWSS-373’s projected departure from Afghanistan.

“This has been an absolutely fantastic experience,” said Royal Air Force Warrant Officer John Taylor, the detachment commander for the Tactical Supply Wing. “Both sides brought their best. The superb communication, impeccable infrastructure and ease of the joint operation were an eye-opener and a tremendous success. The partnership made things work ten times better.”

Sgt. Dan Wald and Sgt. Javier D. Rincon both worked regularly with British troops during the operation, and the two Marines spoke highly of the coalition partnership.

Wald, an MWSS-373 logistics vehicle system operator, convoyed with a coalition U.K.-U.S. force to Forward Operating Base Payne, where the troops set up a landing zone so coalition aircraft could refuel and arm in closer proximity to the ground troops they support. Rincon was sent on a similar mission to Patrol Base Wolfpack.

“The RAF gave us every asset they had,” said Rincon, a native of Salem, Mass., who serves with MWSS-373 as a bulk fuels specialist. “There were times when our helicopters were low on fuel and they would send out their refuelers to help us. They were also willing to give us access to their supplies and gear if we needed it. Everything was split down the middle.”

“I would like to see more operations where U.S. and U.K. forces work together,” said Wald, a San Francisco native. “Anything we did they were willing to do ten times over.”

Rincon remarked on the efficiency of the coalition partnership.

“We greatly benefitted from Tactical Supply Wing’s ability to push out quickly and dig in ahead of us,” said Rincon. “In one situation they manned crew-served weapons and helped us defend an airfield for two weeks.”

The U.K. supply wing and U.S. support squadron exchanged flags, keepsakes and handshakes at Camp Leatherneck as they said goodbye, marking the end of a time spent working toward a common goal.

“Working together has been a great experience for both the U.K. fuelers and the U.S. FARP teams,” said Master Sgt. Lee Duncan, the operations chief for MWSS-373.

Article by Cpl. Rashaun X. James, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd)