MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- The upcoming Weapons and Tactics Instructor course has been cancelled due to maintaining the operational readiness needs of the Marine Corps.
The decision to shut down the spring session of the advanced-level aviation warfare course was made Jan. 11, at the Marine Air Board meeting, to help support the needs of the Corps.
"We essentially wouldn't have the manpower, gear or aircraft to conduct the course," said Lt. Col. Matthew Smith-Meck, Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron-1 operations officer. "All units who normally send students to WTI will be affected as we will not be making weapons and tactics instructors because of the cancellation."
Taught by MAWTS-1 instructors all experienced pilots and crewmembers who have flown thousands of sorties in Marine Corps aircraft WTI is the only class of its kind in the Marine Corps. The students, who are also experienced pilots, learn how to plan, execute and lead air missions in the Marine Air Ground Task Force concept of operations, and how to instruct other pilots to do the same.
Pilots in fixed wing and rotary wing airplanes go through an academic stage and a flight phase which gives them in-depth instruction on command, control and communications and an ability to lead missions in threat environments.
In addition to pilot and crew chief students, the WTI course brings Marines in to support the course from the ground. Logistics for the various practical flight application portions of the course are provided by Marines from the air station and from visting units, and infantry units come to Yuma to train and add realism to the simulated interface between the air and ground elements of the course.
In all, more than 2,000 Marines from various duty stations have migrated to Yuma each spring and fall, almost every year since the squadron's launch in 1978, to take part in the course. Without the influx of Marines, the air station is expected to be affected more than just in its operations.
"The Marines bring in a lot of money when WTI is in session," said Gabriela Black, Single Marine Program and special events coordinator for Marine Corps Community Services. "The recreation events that are normally held aren't going to be offered now. It's affecting everybody."
Black said that in addition to the cancellation of WTI, the current deployment schedule will cause MCCS activities, such as the gymnasium, to reduce the number of hours they will be open.
The immediate future of the course is still in the planning stages, according to Smith-Meck, who said that Headquarters Marine Corps will make the call on whether there will be a July class or, on the other side of the spectrum, whether the Fall class will also be cancelled or rescheduled. Smith-Meck said MAWTS-1 personnel are taking the changes in stride.
"The mood of the units is exceptionally good, as we are doing whatever we can in order to support the operating forces," Smith-Meck said.
The cancellation of WTI is not unprecedented. The Fall 1990 and Spring 1991 courses were cancelled in support of Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm.