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Marines' Desert Talon exercises will be held Friday-Monday
Desert Talon will hit the ground in Yuma this week.
The biannual Marine training exercise will conduct ground drills Friday through Monday at Ronald Reagan Fundamental School, 3200 W. 16th St., while classes are out for winter break. Desert Talon began Dec. 5 but mostly consisted of helicopter and aircraft training outside the city up to this point.
Desert Talon is a real-world exercise that Marines from across the world participate in before they are deployed to Iraq. It has been held twice a year since January 2004.
Col. Robert Hedelund, commanding officer of Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1), said about 1,000 Marines would take part in this round of training.
The surrounding desert and the land at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma and the Barry M. Goldwater Range provide an American equivalent to the conditions troops will face in the Middle East.
"Each day we give out the weather report from the Al Anbar province in Iraq, it's within a couple of degrees of here. The environment is very similar," Hedelund said.
This area also offers Marines a chance to test their skills in an urban setting. The final stages of training will take place in the city as well as locations in Brawley, Calif.
The ground training will test Marines' abilities to conduct a six- to 10-vehicle convoy through the streets, practice casualty evacuation and response to improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
The public is invited to watch all training conducted at Reagan School.
Hedelund said they've worked closely with the city to try and keep this exercise from disrupting the public. No more than four helicopters may be over the city simultaneously, and all aircraft will remain 500 feet and above while over the city.
No aircraft may carry ordnance; guns will be empty.
"They will have some IED simulators," said Capt. Greg Rivaldi. "Think of it like a firecracker."
Desert Talon isn't the only military training exercise held in Yuma throughout the year. The city also plays host to Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) training, last conducted in October, in which participants are designated as weapons tactics instructors and return to their commands to serve as warfare instructors and planners.
Unlike WTI, however, Desert Talon is designed to provide an assessment of an unit's overall ability and build relationships between troops who will be serving together in a war zone.
Hedelund added his gratitude to the city officials, police and fire personnel for working with the Marines on Desert Talon.
"We want to thank them for allowing us to train in their city. It's a unique relationship."
WHAT'S GOING ON:
WHAT: Desert Talon ground training.
WHERE: Ronald Reagan Fundamental School, 3200 W. 16th St.
WHEN: Friday through Monday
WHAT TIME: Marines arrive at 1:30 p.m. to link up with Yuma police and fire personnel. Convoys arrive at 4:30.
WHY: To prepare Marines about to deploy to Iraq for situations they might face in the war zone. The public is invited to watch all training taking place at Reagan School.