WTI: Unique training ground for Marines
Twice a year, pilots, weapon system operators, ground combat and combat support service officers from throughout the Marine Corps come to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma to take part in a course designed to hone their battlefield knowledge and expertise.
The biannual training, which is held in the spring and in the fall, is simply known by the Marines who have attended it as WTI, which stands for Weapons and Tactics Instructor course. It is also the only training of its kind.
"The training helps build communication and training relationships between pilots and troops on the ground performing such tasks as transporting troops and providing close-air support," said Gunnery Sgt. Bill Lisbon of the public affairs office at MCAS Yuma. "Students in the course can take what they’ve learned back to their units to use as a training tool."
“The training gives us a chance to work with the guys in the air the same way we would overseas,” said Lance Cpl. Jonathan Maldonado, artilleryman with Battery G, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine.
Taught by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics (MAWTS) 1, students receive classroom instruction combined with a rigorous flight curriculum during the training, which lasts about six weeks. It includes integrated and ground training.
Marines are taught about a variety of weapons and how they are used, tactics and how best to utilize them together with other Marine aviation units as well as command and control systems.
Lisbon said one student from at least every Marine aviation unit will attend the training. Upon their graduation, students will be designated as a weapons and tactics instructor.
The newly designated instructors, Lisbon said, will then return to their squadrons where they in turn become the teachers, passing on what they learned while attending WTI.
"In essence they are teaching their squadrons what they learned here," Lisbon said. "WTI is some of the most realistic training possible."
Lisbon added that each exercise is designed to simulate realistic urban combat situations. Unlike most other courses in the Marine Corps, there's no written or traditional final exam.
Instead, units participate in a weeklong final exercise, during which they plan and perform a combined-arms operation within the city limits of Yuma and Brawley, Calif.
"Our outstanding relationship with Yuma and the surrounding community allow Marines to train in a realistic urban environment that would be tough to simulate elsewhere," Lisbon said. "Each exercise is designed to simulate realistic urban combat situations."
Lisbon added that the WTI curriculum is constantly updated to include any newly developed equipment or weapons and methodology, such as lessons learned from Operation Enduring Freedom.
"Since war and the way the enemy fights constantly change, so must Marine Corps training to ensure victory. The WTI curriculum is constantly updated from lessons learned during current Marine Corps operations around the world."
MAWTS-1 also keeps in contact with other services and foreign services, which keeps the WTI training in line with the realities of joint operations, according to Lisbon.
MAWTS-1 has been conducing two WTI courses a year since its creation in 1978, making the training this past September the 60th course held.
This past WTI training included the course's first live-fire, high-mobility artillery rocket system use on the Barry M. Goldwater Range.
James Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6854.