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NEWS | Dec. 15, 2023

SIFEX 24 | MALS-36 Expeditionary Sustainment Operations

By 1st Lt. Jude Hydrick, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing

From December 1st to December 8th, 2023, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron (MALS) 36 deployed 160 Marines to Camp Hansen to rehearse and refine Aviation Logistics (AVLOG) Stand-In-Force standard operating procedures (SOPs) in support of Expeditionary Advance Base Operations (EABO)—one of the key tenets of Force Design. The remaining 300 Marines, who made up the rear battle element, cycled through Camp Hansen to gain exposure to expeditionary operations without disrupting flight operations at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

The operation aimed to address challenges in communicating with and sustaining flying squadrons operating within the First Island Chain (FIC) in support of the ground combat element, 4th Marine Regiment. MALS-36 employed tactical communications and a maintenance detachment, task organized to provide sustainment tailored to operate from an austere location.

"This deployment marks a crucial step in the broader landscape of aviation logistics across the Indo-Pacific Area of Responsibility (INDOPACOM AOR),” said Lt. Col. Joshua Onuska, the commanding officer of MALS-36. “It is groundbreaking, setting the stage for AVLOG operations across the FIC. By testing innovative concepts, we are advancing not only our capabilities but also contributing to the overall strategic goals of Force Design."

Key events included rapid air insertions, ground insertions and exfiltration of personnel, command and control rehearsals, AVLOG communications, material deliveries in a communication-degraded/denied environments, and an ordnance hot load in support of flight operations. Additionally, MALS-36 tested a prototype Mission-Capable Combat Readiness Evaluation (MCCRE) in collaboration with 1st Marine Aircraft Wing Aviation Logistics Department and MALS-12.

The deployment fell under Stand in Force Exercise (SIFEX) 24, which is a division-level exercise involving all elements of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force focused on strengthening multi-domain awareness, maneuver, and fires across a distributed maritime environment. This portion of the exercise aimed to advance MALS-36’s ability to sustain Marine Aircraft Group 36’s flight operations in a combat environment. The insights gained will inform AVLOG SOPs for adjacent MALS units operating in a near-peer contested environment in the INDOPACOM AOR.

As the deployment concluded, the Marines of MALS-36 left Camp Hansen, having acquired valuable experience and knowledge that will contribute to their readiness for future challenges in sustaining flight operations in complex and dynamic environments.

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