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NEWS | April 14, 2022

Meet Marine Rotational Force-Darwin 22: the Air Combat Element

By Capt. Joseph DiPietro Marine Rotational Force - Darwin

DARWIN, Australia -- The Marine Rotational Force-Darwin (MRF-D) Air Combat Element (ACE) is critical to accomplish Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) missions and tasks. As one of the Major Subordinate Elements of the MAGTF, the ACE offers much more than just aircraft in the skies.

Led by Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 268 (VMM-268), and joined by detachments from Marine Air Control Group 38 (MACG), Marine Wing Support Squadron 174 (MWSS), and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 24 (MALS), the MRF-D 2022 ACE provides mobility, response, and awareness to the MAGTF.

“The Red Dragons are excited to join 5th Marines as part of the MRF-D 2022 rotation,” said Lieutenant Colonel Vanessa Clark, the commanding officer for the ACE. “Honored to be working hand in hand with the ADF, the importance of the United States-Australia team cannot be overstated. We look forward to maximizing every bilateral training opportunity with the ADF to strengthen our relationships and further interoperability initiatives.”

VMM-268 is a Hawaii-based Osprey squadron that originally activated as HMM-268, a CH-46 unit in 1979. Since activation, VMM-268 supported operations during the Gulf War, the Global War on Terror, Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, and Operation INHERENT RESOLVE, along with other major events and exercises. VMM-268 transitioned to the MV-22 in 2015 and supported MRF-D in 2018.

MRF-D 2022’s ACE is capable of long range tactical insert of personnel and cargo, personnel recovery, casualty evacuation, and humanitarian relief. Compared with traditional rotary wing platforms, the MV-22 extends the operational reach of the MAGTF which will be showcased during the exercises of this year’s rotation. With the additional support from MACG, MWSS, and MALS, the ACE can support assault support transport, aviation command and control (C2), tactical datalink communications, short-range air defense, airfield services, and aviation ground support.

“The addition of robust C2 capabilities of MACG-38 to this year’s ACE enables MRF-D’s contribution to the combined/joint common operational picture” said Major Geoffrey Melvin, the MACG detachment commander. “Working closely with 5th Marines during STEEL KNIGHT allowed us to demonstrate our versatility and understand the difficulties inherent in supporting combined/joint maritime and airspace coordination.”

Darwin and its people have played a vital role in the success of MRF-D, which continues to highlight the importance of the United States-Australia relationship towards maintaining peace, prosperity, and security in the Indo-Pacific region. The ACE looks forward to continuing to foster its relationships within the MAGTF as well as with the ADF and Australian people, highlighting what a modern and agile force can offer across the spectrum of aviation oriented capabilities.

For questions regarding this story, please contact the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin media inquiry email address at MRFDMedia@usmc.mil. Imagery from this rotation and previous can be found at dvidshub.net/unit/MRF-D.

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