CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - -- A CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter is at its designated landing point and needs to land fast so that the Marines on board can quickly secure the airfield. The grass that covers it is too high and the pilot cannot tell if the terrain is safe to land on. The pilot needs to quickly make a decision. Luckily, intelligence recovered from a recent survey of the area shows that the pilot can safely put his helicopter and Marines on the ground.
Six Marines with Battlefield Surveillance Company, 2nd Intelligence Battalion, conducted a geodetic survey of Landing Zone Lark aboard Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, May 28, 2015.
The Marines are responsible for gathering information and mapping out the geographical terrain in a designated area. Many different factors such as weather, construction, foot and vehicle mobility, affect the terrain over time.
“There are constantly different units training at these areas so we need to let the pilots know whether they are safe to land at or not,” said Cpl. Joshua Svenson, a geographical intelligence specialist with the company. “We try to cover each landing zone at (Camp) Lejeune at least once a year.”
Svenson says that the time it takes to map out an area can take anywhere from hours to almost a week to completely gather the necessary information.
“It took us about six hours to map out LZ Lark,” said Svenson. “Depending on the size of the area we are mapping out determines the time it takes.”
A base Global Positioning System is set up at the area and sends signals to satellites passing overhead. The satellites then send information back to the GPS, mapping out the terrain surrounding it. Rovers are then walked out to the boundaries of the designated area, which in turn, send signals back to the base, collecting the boundaries of the area to be mapped.
“The rovers are walked in five-meter increments, allowing us to get an accurate reading of the boundaries to the area,” said Svenson.
The Marines are tasked out by Range Control (Blackburn) to each training area so they can then post the gathered information online for pilots from various units to look at. This information allows the pilots to determine whether they can safely and efficiently train at the area.
Pfc. Matthew Miears, a geographical intelligence specialist with the company, says that they are constantly moving from one area to the next, gathering new data from each LZ.
“By the time we finish with the last area, we go right back to the top of the list and start over again,” said Svenson.
The training helps towards the readiness of the Marine Expeditionary Force Command element, MEF major subordinate commands, subordinate Marine Air Ground Task Forces, and other commands as directed.