From Harrier pilot to commander
Marine Col. Clyde M. Woltman knew he wanted to be a pilot from the time he was 6 years old.
He was inspired by his father, who was in the Navy, but Woltman said he knew he wanted to be a Marine.
He brought the two together in what he calls a "perfect" combination, and a 26-year career.
As a pilot, Woltman said he's logged about 2,700 hours in the AV-8B Harrier, a Marine jet that provides support to ground troops and is capable of forward and vertical takeoffs and landings.
And the Harrier holds a special place in many civilian and military personnels' hearts. Marine Attack Squadron 513 (VMA-513) in Yuma was the first to fly the aircraft, and this year, MCAS Yuma celebrates its 50th anniversary. The Harrier has been a part of Marine aviation since the early 1970s.
Woltman has flown the Harrier since 1988, and subsequently served with Marine Attack Squadrons 513, 311 and 211.
Today, he is commander of Marine Air Group 13, the group that includes the four Harrier squadrons at MCAS. He flew over 130 combat missions during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, Southern Watch in 1996-97, Iraqi Freedom in 2003, and Iraqi Freedom in 2004-05.
Woltman said 80 percent of Marine aviation training goes on in Yuma and the base appreciates the backing from the Yuma area through the last 50 years.
"We've always enjoyed community support," Woltman said.
Since he arrived to MCAS Yuma in 1985, Woltman said that he hasn't seen much change on base, but it's the area east of Yuma that's developed in the last 20 years.
Woltman said even though the city has changed, "it's a small town atmosphere," and he likes being a part of that.
He said MCAS Yuma has the best training ranges and environment in the United States and the world, in part because of the weather in the area. He said the base has strategic value and its resources are a "significantly important to our national defense."
For the future of Marine aviation, Woltman said he's excited about the new F-35B Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), the aircraft that will eventually replace the Harriers and F/A-18 Hornets. MCAS Yuma will be the first base in the nation to receive the JSF, and recently the Corps named four pilots from MCAS Yuma to be part of six instructors that will train other pilots how to fly the jets.
"I'd love to fly it," Woltman said. "I think it's the right thing for the Marine Corps."
Woltman said in the end, the Harrier is fun to fly, but it's always serious.
"Ultimately, we're there to support the Marines on the ground," Woltman said.
Stephanie A. Wilken can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6857.