Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One Weapons and Tactics Instructor course conducted a noncombatant evacuation operation exercise in the City of Yuma, Ariz. and at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twenty-nine Palms, Oct. 19.
WTI, designed to provide advanced aviation and Marine Air Ground Task Force integrated skills training for U.S. and international military aviators, ground forces and support personnel, is held biannually and brings in thousands of visiting military personnel to the Southwestern Arizona region.
The WTI curriculum begins with classroom instruction that progresses in to practical application air and ground training operations that span across military training ranges in Arizona and California. During the practical application phase, students must consider and incorporate all aspects of the MAGTF concept to plan and execute realistic combat, humanitarian and rescue operations.
One of culminating events for WTI students is the simulated evacuation of a U.S. Embassy that is staged in the City of Yuma, Ariz and aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twenty-nine Palms. The concept of the NEO is to prepare the students to evacuate civilians from hostile countries around the globe with very short notice and to work as a unified U.S. military and State Department team.
Because there have been 16 NEOs conducted since the Korean War, MAWTS-1 instructors, student pilots and security personnel recognize the importance of carrying out this training every WTI evolution.
“The Marine Corps prides itself in being an air-ground force in readiness,” said Capt. Joseph Lennox, a WTI student and a native Pearlblossom, Calif. “This NEO accentuates the sort of possible tasks Marines may find themselves confronted with.
At the landing zone in Yuma, Ariz., a U.S. State Department consular affairs officer works with Marines to coordinate the evacuation of Embassy personnel and U.S. citizens living in the hostile area.
Simulating the initial build-up of security personnel at the U.S. Embassy, a pair of CH-53E Super Stallions swoop in to a landing zone at Kiwanis Park to off-load Marines to provide a security parameter and prepare to extract personnel.
Working hand in hand with aviation and ground units, simulated evacuees were processed in and began boarding CH-53Es well into the dark where they were transported to the safety of MCAS Yuma. This process was replicated over several hours until the WTI students and their instructors deemed the mission complete.
Similar evacuation training occurred with MV-22 Ospreys extracting U.S. Embassy personnel and U.S. citizens from MCAGCC 29 Palms back to MCAS Yuma, affording pilots the opportunity to simulate transporting personnel across longer distances to safety.