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Desert Talon prepares Marines for Middle East deployments
Before Marines deploy to the Middle East, they first come to Yuma for a training exercise to help them prepare for the urban and desert operations they are likely to face.
Held at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Desert Talon is a predeployment training exercise for aviation support units before heading to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The training was established in 2004 and is conducted each year in June and December. It is put on by the Yuma-based Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1.
"Essentially, the training includes many of the combat skills potentially needed in Iraq," said Gunnery Sgt. Bill Lisbon of the MCAS public affairs office. "The training is determined by the latest feedback received by Marines deployed overseas."
Desert Talon, which draws several thousand Marines to the air station, helps create and forge relationships among deploying units, which train in a realistic setting for potential operations in a populated area.
During the exercise, Marines will be responding to encounters that simulate improvised explosive devices (IED), practice urban air support and casualty evacuation, conduct convoys and role-play encounters with civilians as mounted patrols.
Also as part of the training, Marines also will practice combat-related skills necessary to conduct convoy security, perform day and night crew-served weapons firing, and operate a forward arming and refueling point on the Barry M. Goldwater Range east of the air station.
A FARP (Forward Arming and Revealing Point) allows rotary-wing aircraft to resume their mission quicker by refueling and reloading ordnance there instead of traveling back to the air station to wait in line for service.
"Training scenarios can range from a vehicle convoy being ambushed to a helicopter landing in an urban environment to medevacking a wounded Marine," Lisbon said. "Generally, specific units focus on their specific skills first, i.e. bulk fuel technicians will train to set up and operate an aircraft fueling point, attack helicopters will attack targets on the range, etc."
Lisbon added, "The various units will then integrate for a more complex, real-world scenario, such as military police escorting a supply convoy with helicopters in flight nearby providing aerial reconnaissance and security."
Participating Marines also practice communicating with helicopters to coordinate medical evacuations. The training helps the Marines use different scenarios to determine when it is best to call in helicopters.
"If the convoy gets ambushed and a Marine is wounded, then the Marines on the ground will have to find a landing zone for the helicopters to come in and pick up the wounded," Lisbon said.
The training also is helpful when American military is called upon to provide assistance in other situations.
The last part of the training occurs in and around Yuma, as well as locations in Brawley, Calif.
During the training, which the public is allowed to watch, helicopters will be landing at various locations with Marine convoys traveling through town to get to those landing sites.
The training is held in Yuma because it offers an excellent replication of what Marine aviation units face when they get to Iraq.
James Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6854.