Continued use of aerial range critical to MCAS
Although most Yumans are aware of the important role of the Marine Corps Air Station here in the military preparedness of the nation, they probably are less aware of the importance of the training ranges located near us.
One of them, the Barry M. Goldwater Range stretching east of Yuma toward Gila Bend, is shared by the Air Force and the Marine Corps. The other one, the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, is located northwest of Yuma and is used by the Department of the Navy, including the Marine Corps.
These two ranges are among the few places where critical live fire and aerial bombing training can be conducted and they are essential to preparation of pilots for warfare. They are one reason why so much aerial training takes place at MCAS Yuma and why the local base will be the first to receive the newest generation of fighter jets in the near future.
Keeping the ranges available is important for MCAS, but that is far from assured, given environmental and recreational pressures. In fact, the Chocolate Mountain range is even now going through a periodic process to get permission from Congress to remain open.
One consideration in the renewal process is who oversees the 459,000 acres of land. Right now there is a complex checkerboard of oversight by two agencies, the Department of the Navy and the Bureau of Land Management, with each managing about half the acreage.
An environmental statement that is part of the approval process notes that the split jurisdiction results in “deficiencies and duplication of effort.” That's hardly surprising, given the potential divergent interests of the two agencies. That needs to change.
It makes sense to put it all under the Navy since its primary purpose is military training. And its use for that purpose certainly should not be curtailed. Our nation's military readiness depends on it continuing to be available to train our pilots.