Dawn Blitz is a multi-national exercise that takes place every other year, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and in the waters of the Pacific Ocean offshore from the base. This year’s exercise took place in the early weeks of September; participants were the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, an Army unit from New Zealand, Japanese Navy vessels with their air assets, and for the first time, Mexican Navy vessels and air assets, along with a company of Mexican Naval Infantry Force marines.

The exercise brings many observers from other countries too, especially from our South American allies such as Columbia, Chile, and Peru.

The forces practice naval combat and familiarizing each other with their country’s capabilities, and then, on land the troops will use the various ranges such a combat towns, small arms, and others.

The US Marines and Navy use their well known inventory of aircraft, from MV-22 “Ospreys”, SH & MH-60’s “Sea Hawks” and CH-53 “Super Sea Stallions”, while the Japanese bring their CH-47 “Chinooks” & SH-60 “Romeos”. In 2013, the Japanese also had a ship-based Apache “AH-64DJP”, but it was not seen this time.

The first time participant, Mexico, brought along a Russian-made Mi-17 “HIP” and a Eurocopter AS565 “Panther”.

During the 3 days that I spent with the exercise, I flew onboard a US Marine MV-22 out to the USS Boxer for a media meeting with the flag officers of the exercise to explain their mission. I won’t bore you with the facts, but right now the Pentagon is focusing on issues in the Yellow and east China Seas, and the defense of our allies in that region. Some believe that Communist China is playing a game to get our attention on this region, when their real focus is really on invading Taiwan, but that’s for another story, some other day.

After that meeting, I reboarded the “Osprey” and flew to the Japanese Self Defense Force ship, the “Hyuga”.  A submarine destroyer officially, the “Hyuga” is, in reality, a small carrier that can carry troops and helicopters, much like the “Boxer”. This was my second time onboard this ship, and I was able to observe their various helicopters flying to and from her flight deck. After the demonstration, I was flown back to shore for the end of the day.

After watching amphibious landings of the Mexican Naval Infantry in their assault boats on the beaches of Camp Pendleton, and the New Zealanders landing in US Marine Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAV’s), I could hear a strange thumping from helicopter blades coming from the north.  Its’ sound was different from any US-type helo. Suddenly, the Mi-17 and the “Panther” came into view as the Mexican Navy flew troops inland from their two ships at sea.

The very next day, I found myself waiting for the arrival of those two helicopters, as they would transport me out to the Mexican naval vessels, the ARM “Revolucion” and the ARM “Usumacinta”. Now I will say this; I have flown on UH-1’s, CH-46’s, CH-53’s, and MV-22’s, and there is always a little bit of shaking going on, but when I flew in the “HIP’, it was more of a bouncing type of flight, just a constant up and down bounce. The Mexican military personnel that I met that day were extremely professional, and a pleasure to meet and greet, and to see their ships and aircraft.

On the way back to shore, the pilot of the “HIP” gave me the opportunity to take images of the ships at sea and some air to air photos of the “Panther”, flying alongside us. This was the end of my three days, and a wonderful experience to see not only America’s military at work, but that of our allies up close too.

I want to thank the US Navy and Marine Corps and the Mexican Navy for their hospitality, and especially Major Staci Reidinger,, the Public affairs Officer and her staff of the ” I MEF” PAO’s office. You all did a great service for me.

Douglas Aguillard

Douglas (Doug) Aguillard is a Freelance Photojournalist who specializes in the Military & Aviation fields. Based in San Diego, CA, he is a Marine veteran., He currently is a photojournalist for the Military Press Newspaper, the Historical / Archival Dept. photographer for the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum at MCAS Miramar, and a very proud member of Photo Recon, and has been published in various magazines and books such as "Combat Aircraft Monthly" magazine, "Vertical " magazine, "Wings of Gold" magazine, Sikorsky Frontlines newsletter, and the San Diego Air & Space Museum's Book: "Celebrating the San Diego Air & Space Museum: A History of the Museum and it's collections".

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