|WTI as seen from above|
Take a flight on a CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter, with reporter James Gilbert and other members of the media and community leaders during Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) course taught by MAWTS-1, based at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma.
|Evacuation exercise during WTI|
Marines conduct special evacuation exercises twice a year as part of the Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) course, currently in session through November at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma.
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Marines conduct WTI evacuation exercises
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There is turmoil and unrest in a foreign country, American citizens present there are at risk, and they need to be evacuated immediately out of harm's way. Send in the U.S. Marines.
Such a real-world scenario has occurred before, and will most likely happen again. To be ready for such a situation, the Marines conduct special evacuation exercises twice a year as part of the Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) course, currently in session through November at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma.
The most recent evacuation exercise was held Friday afternoon at Kiwanis Park, located at the corner of Magnolia Avenue and 8th Street.
As part of the exercise, a team of Marines is flown to the park, which is used as a landing zone (LZ), in several waves of helicopters. These Marines fan out and secure the perimeter of the park, keeping their weapons trained on the horizon and eyes vigilant against the possibility of an attack.
In addition to ground security, a Low Altitude Air Defense (LAAD) unit protects against aerial threats, which can range from incoming missiles to enemy helicopters.
After the LZ is secure, the Marines begin searching and processing “American citizens” who are being portrayed by Marines dressed in civilian attire. Once they are cleared by security, the non-combatants are rushed into helicopters and flown to safety.
The entire ordeal involves about 200 Marines and takes several hours. Some of these Marines are expected to be deployed as part of a Marine Expeditionary Unit patrolling the Pacific Ocean in the near future.
The experience they gain from the training exercise is invaluable, explained Capt. Staci Reidinger, director of public affairs for MCAS Yuma.
“They are going to take their skills from here and be able to go and be that maritime presence. So if there is a need or some type of upheaval that takes place that they need to go and be that immediate response to, they've had the training already.”
The exercise happens in close proximity to Yuma residential neighborhoods, and is attended by hundreds of spectators who have come to see the action. The location is unique for the Marine Corps, which does not often have the opportunity to land in the middle of a city for training purposes.
“Especially for our aviators and pilots who come in, this is one of the few times, if not the only time, for them to be able to land in a civilian environment to get the feel of not having the regular dimensions of a flight line,” Reidinger said. “It takes a lot planning and I think it builds their confidence for them to be able to go out and do the mission they are going to have to do.”
One example of this skill being used in action was the U.S. aid missions following natural disasters in both Pakistan and Japan, Reidinger noted.
“When they went into Pakistan for the floods, this helped them. The Marines who trained here in Yuma were helping to off-load food and get medical supplies to the people that needed it in that country as well as in Japan.”
The Marine Corps greatly appreciates the cooperation of the city of Yuma and area citizens for allowing them to use Kiwanis park for the exercise, Reidinger said.
“If the people didn't want us to be doing it then we wouldn't be doing it. We are very gracious to have it. If we can get our guys trained to go out and do their jobs safely, and get them home safely, that is the best we can do.”
Chris McDaniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6849.