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Spirit of Yuma: MCAS a major influence
With more than 5,000 Marines and sailors stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma and thousands more that travel there for training, the air base serves as an integral part of the Yuma economy.
“We have an economic impact on Yuma and what is able to happen in Yuma,” said GySgt. Dustin Dunk. “...Part of what is here economically is because of MCAS-Yuma as well as Yuma Proving Ground.”
Along with the number of Marines and sailors stationed at MCAS-Yuma, it is estimated that there are over 7,000 family members with them, approximately 1,300 civilian employees on base and on most days, an additional 1,000 military members using the facility for training purposes.
The air station annually hosts approximately 70 aviation units, bringing an average of 600 aircraft and 14,000 personnel for ongoing training that takes place throughout the year.
“After touring the Yuma Territorial Prison and seeing how small this town once was – there's a big draw here in Yuma for agriculture – but also a lot of military influence around here. A lot of the local businesses rely on a portion of their income from military people shopping in the stores,” said Dunk.
Visitors coming to the area may not know that the main runway at MCAS Yuma is 13,300 feet long and contains enough concrete to pave 37 miles of a two-lane highway. It was also a back-up landing spot for NASA space shuttles.
From its beginnings as a civilian airport named Fly Field with temporary dirt runways back in 1928, MCAS Yuma is now the home of the first operational squadron of F-35B fighters in the nation as well as home to four squadrons of AV-8B Harrier IIs of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing — VMA 211, 214, 311 and 513 — Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1) and Marine Fighter Training Squadron 401 (VMFT-401), an air combat adversary squadron of the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing of the Marine Corps Reserve. Additionally, Combat Logistics Company 16, Marine Air Control Squadron 1, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13 and Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 are also tenants of the air base.
Recognized as one of the busiest air stations by the U.S. Marine Corps, its primary mission is to support aerial weapons training for the Atlantic and Pacific Fleet Marine Forces and Navy, and to serve as a base of operations for Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron-1, and Third MAW units, to include Marine Aircraft Group-13.
With access to 2.8 million acres of bombing and aviation training ranges, and superb flying weather, MCAS Yuma supports 80 percent of the Corps' air-to-ground aviation training. Each year, the air station hosts numerous units and aircraft from U.S. and NATO forces.
Included in the training program is Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) program. Conducted twice annually (Spring and Fall), pilots, weapons systems operators, ground combat and combat support service officers throughout the Marine Corps come to Yuma to take part in a three-week course designed to improve battlefield knowledge and expertise. This course is the only one of its kind and supported exclusively in Yuma.
The installation was taken over by the Army Air Corps at the outbreak of World War II and renamed Yuma Army Airfield. The site of one of the busiest flying schools in the nation, it graduated pilots by the hundreds. At the end of the war, all flight activity here ceased and the area was partially reclaimed by the desert.
On July 7, 1951, the Air Force reactivated and operated the base until it was signed over to the Navy on Jan. 1, 1959. On Jan. 10, it became the newly designated Marine Corps Auxiliary Air Station. Then on July 20, 1962, the designation of the installation was changed to the Marine Corps Air Station.
Sarah Womer can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6858. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSSarahWomer or on Twitter at @YSSarahWomer.