As a precautionary measure to the ongoing outbreak of the coronavirus, the commanding officer of Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1) has canceled the remaining portion of the large-scale air and ground coordination training exercise that had been underway at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma.
“In an effort to preserve the safety of our troops during this time, Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) course 2-20 has concluded academics and the course has been suspended,” said Col. Steve Gillette, commanding officer of MAWTS-1.
The training officially kicked off on March 8 and was slated to run through April 26, with thousands of Marines from both inside and outside the U.S. in town. There were no confirmed COVID-19 cases associated with the Marines participating.
This particular portion of WTI course was three weeks long and the 250 or so Marines who were participating have completed the academic phase of the training.
As such, all of the Marines who were attending, or were at MCAS Yuma in support of the exercise, will now be returning to their assigned home duty stations, despite a Department of Defense (DOD) domestic travel ban that runs to May 11.
“The priority is a safe return for each Marine in order to protect the force,” Gillette said. “Special consideration and minor delays may be in place for Marines traveling outside the United States.”
Each WTI course typically includes a training exercise that simulates some type of mission, such as foreign humanitarian assistance, that is conducted at several locations around the city of Yuma, with most of the activity taking place at Kiwanis Park, located at the corner of 8th Street and Magnolia Avenue.
The exercise, which features flights of helicopters landing and often draws hundreds of spectators, will not be held.
According to an emailed statement from Lt. Adara Story, a spokeswoman for MAWTS-1, the squadron conducts the Weapons and Tactics Instructor course twice per year.
The course, which has been “mission essential training” by the Marine Corps, ensures that the Aviation Combat Element for the Marine Corps is deployment ready by providing aviation squadrons with necessary qualifications to support military operations in defense of the nation and in support of its allies.