Past has prepared the future (1990)
Looking forward from the past
With the beginning of a new decade, MCAS Yuma looks forward to adding new strength to its reputation as the Marine Corps' premier tactical aviation training facility. Although this reputation is relatively new, the things that give way to it have been trademarks of MCAS Yuma for more than two decades.
Among those things that make Yuma unique in the aviation community is its close proximity to 1.5 million acres of training ranges and its nearly perfect year-round flying weather.
Unique. This a word that truly applies to Yuma's Marine Corps Air Station, and if the past holds any glimpses into the future, then the word "first" will also continue to be used when describing MCAS Yuma.
Among the many firsts which will, no doubt, continue to play significant roles in the future, one can count the Marine Corps' first night attack Harrier squadron, Marine Attack Squadron-214 (VMA-214); the Corps' first aggressor squadron, Marine Fighter Training Squadron-401 (VMFT-401), the Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) course of Marine Aviation and Tactic Squadron-1 (MAWTS-1), a unit that is unique in its own right; and the Marine Corps' first and only joint-use military and civilian airfield.
One of these unique characteristics of MCAS Yuma, which is perhaps the oldest and the most tangible to local citizens, is the joint-use nature of the airfield. As a result of the joint-use agreement with the Yuma International Airport, MCAS Yuma handles some 200,000 civilian and military flight operations annually. This makes the air station one of the busiest in the Navy and Marine Corps.
The most recent first, the delivery of the night attack version of Harrier jet to the "Blacksheep" of VMA-214, signals the beginning of one of the most significant pioneering opportunities for MCAS Yuma. This enhanced version of the Harrier brings with it a magnificent new capability in the art of close air support and will be a tremendous part of Yuma's future.
This is just one piece of a future, for MCAS Yuma, that began forming in October 1987, when the air station embarked upon a 31/2-year period of intense change: the tactical air transition. This has transformed the air station from an aircrew training base into a fully tactical base of operation for the AV-8B Harrier.
Once the transition is complete, in 1991, MCAS Yuma will have four combat-ready Harrier squadrons: VMA-513, '311, '214 and '211, each capable of rapid deployment.
No matter how rapid the response might be, it cannot sustain itself. It requires ground support. In this respect, MCAS Yuma squadrons enjoy the finest available.
This support comes in numerous forms. Some of it, like the support provided by Marine Wing Support Squadron-371 (MWSS-371), is relatively new to Yuma and runs the gambit from maintaining and operating an expeditionary airfield to security, rapid runaway repair, messing and administration.
Not so new to Yuma, but eminently well equipped for the 1990s, is the 2nd Light Antiaircraft Missile Battalion (2nd LAAM Bn.). Currently outfitted with the HAWK Phase III Missile system, 2nd LAAM Bn. provides an exceptional air defense capability, with its high mobility being a major strong point.
Another unique part in Yuma's profile of aviation excellence, recently replaced one first with another. VMFT-401, the Marine Corps' only aggressor squadron, switched from their Israeli-built F-21 Kfir jets to the F-5 Tiger II, leased from the U.S. Air Force.
This unit holds an important place in Yuma's future through their ability to provide dissimilar aircraft and aggressor training to the Fleet Marine Force, as well as Navy and Air Force units. To do this, the pilots fly "Russian" tactics in their F-5s, which resemble and have flight characteristics similar to the MiG-21.
Tactics -- past, present and future; they are the focus of MAWTS-1, the only unit of its kind in the Marine Corps. Most Yumans know MAWTS-1 from semiannual Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) course held here each April and October. The WTI course is a comprehensive postgraduate-level course of instruction for highly experienced officers from all aviation communities throughout the Marine Corps and selected units from the Army, Navy and Air Force.
The WTI course is a consistently dynamic and expanding program that has, and will continue to generate many improvements to weapons and tactics training. When the future of Marine Corps aviation tactics is discussed, volumes are being written at MCAS Yuma.
Improvements also extend beyond aviation. The air station has spent millions of dollars on new facilities in recent years. These facilities range from the workplace to living quarters and work toward the goal of improving the quality of life for those who live and work here.
As the final decade of this century begins, the prospects for peace in the world have never been greater. But in the words of one this nation's founding father, Thomas Jefferson: "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." At Yuma's Marine Corps Air Station, that vigilance is part of the future.
Luckie was commanding officer of MCAS Yuma from May, 1988 to July, 1990.