Face of Defense: Marine Controller Sends Sky Support

HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan — A Marine Corps pilot switched his work­place from the air to the ground to coor­di­nate sky-launched assaults against the ene­my here.

AV-8B Harrier aircraft with Marine Attack Squadron 513
Marine Corps Capt. Daniel Fiust, who’d flown AV-8B Har­ri­er air­craft with Marine Attack Squadron 513, now serves as a for­ward air con­troller in Hel­mand province, Afghanistan.
Marine Corps pho­to by Pfc. Sean Den­ni­son
Click to enlarge

Capt. Daniel Fiust had flown mis­sions with oth­er AV-8B Har­ri­er jet pilots assigned to Marine Attack Squadron 513. Now he’s help­ing to pro­vide close-air sup­port from the sky to Marines fight­ing on the ground. “We look at what type of sup­port the Marines need, and update our tac­tics based on what we’re see­ing of the ene­my from the air,” said Fiust, who hails from San Car­los, Calif. 

In his role as air offi­cer and a for­ward air con­troller for 3rd Bat­tal­ion, 4th Marine Reg­i­ment, Fiust serves as the coor­di­na­tor between the bat­tal­ion and the fixed- and rotary-wing assets of 2nd Marine Air­craft Wing (For­ward). A bat­tal­ion air offi­cer serves as a liai­son for avi­a­tion squadrons sup­port­ing ground Marines, direct­ing and dis­pers­ing air assets across the battalion’s area of operations. 

Fiust said he’s respon­si­ble for coor­di­nat­ing flight times and routes for dozens of com­bat air­craft ded­i­cat­ed to pro­tect­ing Marines on the ground. 

“We inte­grate all func­tions of avi­a­tion with ground com­bat mis­sions,” he said. “Basi­cal­ly, any­thing aer­i­al, we have a role in.” 

A vet­er­an of Oper­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom, Fiust had spent more than three years with fly­ing squadrons, when he report­ed to the air officer’s course, part of Marine Avi­a­tion Weapons and Tac­tics Squadron 1’s Weapons and Tac­tics Instruc­tor course. 

“I real­ly want­ed to work with infantry units,” Fiust explained. “As a [close-air sup­port] pilot, I want­ed to see what things were like on the ground and do my part to contribute.” 

The air offi­cer is the senior for­ward air con­troller in a bat­tal­ion, super­vis­ing the unit’s for­ward air con­trollers and enlist­ed joint ter­mi­nal attack con­trollers, who patrol with their squads and pro­tect them by call­ing in airstrikes. 

Fiust said he believes the rela­tion­ship between air offi­cers on the ground and the squadrons is an exam­ple of mil­i­tary team­work that saves lives. 

And­his new respon­si­bil­i­ties on the ground pro­vide a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive about fight­ing the war, Fiust said. 

“As a pilot, I some­times felt detached from the sit­u­a­tion,” he said. “As an air offi­cer, you’re more emo­tion­al­ly invested.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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