MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- Each year during the Weapons and Tactics Instructor course, approximately 2,000 Marines from units across the Marine Corps visit the station to train. These units then spread out to the various training sites in Yuma.
That is where the station's Combat Service Support Company 133 comes into play as a third-echelon maintenance support unit.
For each training exercise, CSSC-133 goes to the field to provide maintenance support for the participating units.
CSSC-133 arrived at Site 50, which is south of Welton, Ariz., in the Barry M. Goldwater range, April 1 when WTI students finished with the academic portion of the training. They will remain until April 23, when WTI ends. They were also augmented by Marines from 1st Force Service Support Group, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. The mission of CSSC-133 during WTI is to provide maintenance support to all units participating in the training evolution at sites Siphon 8, Auxiliary-2 and Canon Air Defense Complex.
CSSC-133 leaves the comforts of the air station for the duration of WTI and performs all maintenance work in a field environment. The maintenance unit also hits the field for a second WTI later in the year and for the two Desert Talon training exercises.
CSSC-133, one of the smallest units on station with about 70 Marines, also left Marines at the station to provide rear maintenance support.
The Marines sleep in general purpose tents, eat two hot meals and one meal, ready-to-eat a day. The Marines also do their laundry in the field and take five-minute showers.
"The time spent at Site 50 will help build unit cohesion," said 1st Lt. Orlando Giarratano, CSSC-133 logistics officer. "This brings the Marines together, because when we are back at the rear, everyone has their own life. The Marines here all cope with the same hardships and so they become closer. This also gives me a chance to get more involved with the Marines in the unit. Otherwise I wouldn't be able to."
This is a good opportunity for the Marines because they are gaining the experience of working in the field, said Sgt. Eric Saldevilla, CSSC-133 maintenance chief and quality control.
"The Marines are learning what it's like not being able to work in a shaded area all the time. They also deal with not always having the proper tools you might have in the shop and having to improvise with the tools at hand," added Saldevilla. "They have to work out here dealing with the weather, critters and you have to learn how to overcome and adapt. It means installing engines and transmissions in the field and having to pick up a broken truck in the middle of the night."
During free time, Marines learn additional knowledge and skills.
"Every day we hold (professional military education's) about anything that can contribute to what we are doing here land navigation, first aid, war fighting," said Saldevilla. "We try not to just sit around and watch movies and sleep. We try to do the most we can while we are out here."
In addition to PME's, CSSC-133 also takes advantage of the situation and provides Marines the opportunity to learn something new in addition to their military occupational specialties.
"We have Marines who work specifically in motor transport, and when they don't have anything to do, we let them go with other sections to cross-train. The Marines lend each other a hand, allowing them to learn something new."
"The cross-training is very beneficial, because we are able to learn more than one job," said Cpl. Joe Valadad, CSSC-133 mechanic. "Otherwise, while we are out, we would only become more proficient in our field and nothing else."
For some Marines, living in the field is a new experience. But they welcome the challenge.
"This is very different from garrison; it's a completely different world. Here we are having to work in the elements of Yuma, coping with the weather and the heat," said Valadad. "When I first found out we would be in the field for a month, I was excited and looked forward to going. This is the first time I've been in a field environment and I'm really enjoying it."