The initial component to Final Exercise One for Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One Weapons and Tactics Instructor course began on April 23 at the Laguna Army Airfield near MCAS Yuma, Ariz. The culminating event tested the skills taught to student pilots and ground operators throughout several weeks of combined arms training.
FINX-1 included approximately 600 Marines from the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. and over 200 aviation pilots and maintainers. Ground Marines were transported to Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. by a number of MV-22 Ospreys as well as CH-43’s flown by WTI students, simulating a mass insertion of troops into a hostile environment.
“This has been some really intense and unique training for our Marines during this WTI,” said Maj. Jeffery Curtis, a WTI instructor at MCAS Yuma and native of St. Louis, Mo. “This is an immense exercise in terms of timing and personnel and it is our grand finale to the WTI course.”
While in Twentynine Palms, the overall objective for the ground forces was to seize an enemy airfield, weakening their enemies’ defenses so the students can perform an air raid on the remaining forces.
“Going through this training will certainly put a lot of the things we have worked on to the test,” said Lt. Col. Paul Merida, the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, battalion commander, and native of Oakland, Calif. “This final exercise is unique for a lot of my young Marines because for the first time we will be primarily on the offensive attack.”
Along with the nearly 600 infantryman brought to engage on the enemy, approximately 250 Marines from 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, based at the MCAGCC Twentynine Palms, Calif., will also participate in the exercise.
“It’s not over yet and these long two months of being in the rugged deserts of Yuma during this WTI training has given us a chance to see just how realistic the training environment is here,” said Merida. “I hope all the Marines and sailors involved in this final exercise take full advantage of the type of training they are getting on these ranges because nothing else comes close in comparison to what it is like in the Middle East.”
With this grand finale comes end of WTI 2-13 and preparations for the fall course. MAWTS-1’s Marine Air Ground Task Force training concept integrates pilots, weapons system operators, ground combat and combat service support units from throughout the Corps to enhance communication and build training relationships that are vital to success when called to action.