Real world Yuma: East Coast Marines conduct final training exercises before returning home
Ten helicopters squat in rows on Marine Corps Air Station Yuma's sun-drenched flight line, their rotors one by one beginning to turn, hot exhaust blasting out their backsides.
Nearby, a towering master sergeant thrusts his stubbled chin toward about 100 enlisted Marines, weighed down with weapons and combat gear, patiently waiting just outside the visiting squadron hangar for the order to embark.
"Those are actual grunts," Master Sgt. James Hanagan shouts above the mounting roar of engines. "They train with us, and that is what a lot of people don't understand. That's the whole point of the Marine Corps right there. That aircraft, myself, wouldn't exist if it wasn't for the first sergeant and his people. My job is to support them. Everything is configured around the ground Marines."
Hanagan is the maintenance chief for HMM-266, a North Carolina helicopter squadron taking part in a military exercise here called Exercise Diamond Thrust. It's put on by Marine Aircraft Group 26 out of Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C.
While most of MCAS Yuma's squadrons are away in the Gulf region, MAG-26 officials decided to spend April in Yuma using the air station and its ranges to train for an upcoming deployment, perhaps to the Gulf region. About 1,350 Marines and about 50 aircraft are taking part.
This weekend the squadrons will finish up their final exercises and begin heading home.