Some Yuma residents may hear small explosions Friday evening during a training exercise in which Marines will be practicing noncombatant evacuation operations.
"The explosions are equivalent to a firecracker and simulate artillery being fired at the Marines," said Maj. Ryan Shadle, evolution trainer for the training exercise.
Marines enrolled in this current six-week biannual Weapons and Tactics Instructor course will conduct noncombatant evacuation operations in Yuma and Brawley on Friday.
The exercise will be from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Crane Middle School, 4480 W. 32nd St., and Trinity Christian Center, 4309 W. 16th St.
In Brawley, the exercise will take place at Pat Williams Park.
Shadle said the exercise is not specifically designed for Iraq or Afghanistan but is aimed at giving students realistic training. It is intended to simulate the rescue of American citizens who are stranded in a hostile area, such as a country where the United States has an embassy, and need to be evacuated.
The major added that over the past 50 years, the Marine Corps has conducted about 15 noncombatant evacuation operations, including most recently the evacuation of Beirut, Lebanon, in the summer of 2006.
"It is a very likely mission the Marine Corps will be asked to perform over and over again. That is why we practice it."
For this portion of the training, which occurs over two days, Shadle said the Marines will plan the evacuation of a large group of simulated evacuees from Yuma and Brawley on Thursday and execute the mission on Friday.
More than 30 aircraft of various types will be used for the training, including the CH-46 Sea Knight and the CH-53 Sea Stallion.
"Both of those aircraft will be inserting the security forces and extracting simulated evacuees," Shadle said. "They will be operating in flights of one to three at a time."
Also overhead will be UH-1 Hueys and AH-1 Cobras.
"They will providing escort for the CH-46 and CH-53, as well as close air support for the Marines on the ground," Shadle said. "Between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m., that five-hour window, is when you will see most of the traffic over Yuma and Brawley."
Flying high overhead for the training will be two F-18 Hornets, which will be doing the tactical airborne coordination; two AV-8 Harriers, which will be providing close air support and reconnaissance; two MV-22 Ospreys and KC-130s.
At 7:30 p.m. there will also be a simulated crash landing of a helicopter at Trinity Christian School.
Shadle said none of the aircraft will be flying lower than 500 feet unless they are landing and they won't be carrying any live ordnance.
The public is invited to watch the training at each location, but military officials encourage onlookers to remain a safe distance away so they don't interfere with the training.
Col. Gary Thomas said the Marine Corps is extremely grateful to the city of Yuma for allowing the base to conduct the training inside the city limits.
"Our goal is to provide as realistic training as possible, and to do that we need urban terrain," Thomas said.
"The city of Yuma has been very gracious in allowing us to train within the confines of the city, to practice these real-world missions," Thomas said. "That is very important to us and it is important for us to be good stewards of the permission the city has given us."
WTI, which is organized by MAWTS-1, is held twice a year. The Marine students take what they learn at this course back to their units where they in turn become the teachers. Each exercise is designed to simulate realistic urban combat situations.
James Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6854.