Yumaâ€™s Kiwanis Park was abuzz with activity Friday night, as Marines participating in the Weapons and Tactics Instructor course completed a noncombatant evacuation operation as part of their curriculum.
The event takes place twice a year, drawing crowds of locals to watch as Marine CH-53E helicopters land to load and unload Marines and role players.
The NEO is designed to prepare the students to evacuate civilians from hostile countries around the globe in the event of an emergency.
There have been 16 NEOs conducted since the Korean War, and Marine pilots and crews train in the event thereâ€™s another one.
â€œIt is the only place where the students are going to get this type of training and itâ€™s a place where we can make it as realistic as possible,â€ Maj. William Lewis, assault support tactics-3 evolution coordinator.
At the landing zone, a State Department consular affairs officer worked with the Marines to coordinate the evacuation, just as would happen in real life.
As the sun set, the helicopters returned to ferry the role players away from the simulated hot zone and back to the safety of the air station, and also picked up the Marines as the ground mobile forces left.A ground based quick reaction force were the first Marines into the park, quickly setting up a perimeter for the Super Stallions landing zone. Two UH-1N Hueys circled overhead to provide immediate fire support in the event of an attack, as the massive CH-53E Super Stallions landed in the park to drop off additional Marines for security and to evaluate the role players, provided by the Canadian Army, who are also in Yuma for training.
The crowds watched in amazement, many of them children who were seeing the military aircraft in use for the first time, as the Marines and soldiers prepared for an event they hope they never need to perform.