SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - At Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, exercise Winter Fury is underway, with slight modifications due to the pandemic.
The exercise happens each year for 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing and it's extremely complex.
"We’re actually dropping live bombs, we’re dropping them in a safe but close location to Marines on the ground. We’re getting our targets marked by Marines on the ground. They’re getting supplies and ammunition delivered from helicopters from Miramar and Ospreys," Assistant Operations Officer of Squadron VMFA 232 Captain Daniel Tolbert said.
Friday they will be working about 200 miles offshore, he said.
"Shooting an actual live missile isn’t necessarily rare or uncommon, but it is something that only happens for a squadron maybe every year or every other year or so," Tolbert said.
He assured the mission is safe. He said safety is discussed at every planning meeting and every stage of the mission.
"It’s very safe and safety is the number one priority," he said.
When it comes to changes made due to the pandemic, Tolbert said they've been minor, "at least the training aspect of the exercise has not changed. A lot of the meetings that you have with coordination, we’re exploring the realm of the virtual teleconference."
He said nearly every planning meeting has been virtual, which was challenging for such a large complex mission.
New strict guidance came down Thursday night from the Secretary of Defense, Lloyd J. Austin III, mandating masks be worn at all times for Department of Defense employees.
Effective immediately, all individuals on military installations, and all individuals performing official duties on behalf of the DOD from any location other than the individual's home, including outdoor shared spaces, will wear masks in accordance with current CDC guidelines. pic.twitter.com/qXJpqsS01J
— Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (@SecDef) February 5, 2021
The MAW told ABC 10News they will continue following safety guidance to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
When asked what the most important part of the exercise is, Tolbert replied, "It’s definitely to practice and train like we’re going to fight. So we need to build a relationship with guys on the ground and we need to build a relationship with the aircraft."
He said those relationships and trust are critical to the success of their missions.
Tolbert said while there shouldn't be more noise during the exercise, they will have later hours.
"If we’re causing a disturbance, if we’re waking you up, waking your kids up, we apologize but please understand this is us at work doing our job to make sure that everybody is safe," he said.
Some missions will run until 11:30 p.m.. The exercise ends February 19th.