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WTI NEO training to take place in Yuma, Brawley

By Lance Cpl. Laura A. Mapes | | October 18, 2007

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Marines participating in the Weapons and Tactics Instructors course here will conduct a Noncombatant Evacuation Exercise Friday afternoon within the city limits of Yuma and Brawley, Calif.

The training evolution brings Marines from across the Corps together with Department of State officials to plan and execute operations like embassy evacu¬ations, which Marines performed as early as 1996 in Lebanon, said Maj. Isaac Lee, Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 lead instructor for the exercise.

“If at any point in time the United States govern¬ment deems it unsafe for Americans to be in a foreign country, whether it is due to a change of power in their government or if relations between America and that country become hostile, we will conduct a NEO to get those Americans out of that situation,” said Lee.

Two separate operations will happen at the same time in the cities of Yuma and Brawley Calif.

With Marine role players posing as both evacuees and insurgent forces, the evolution will begin with several waves of CH-53 and CH-46 helicopters landing in both cities to insert Marine security forces. Once the area is secure, the evacuee role players will begin loading aircraft to be airlifted out, followed by the security forces.

During the exercise, a military convoy will move from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma through the streets of Yuma to C.W McGraw Elementary School, where the majority of the landing and control of the operation will take place.

A simulated downed aircraft, in the form of a UH-1N Huey landing at Yuma’s Trinity Christian Center, will force the security forces here to practice additional scenarios and add to their training.

At the same time, Marines will be operating in Pat Williams Park on the Northwest side of Brawley, with similar scenarios.

With a total of 32 aircraft over Yuma and around Brawley, safety for the citizens of both cities is a primary concern.

MAWTS-1 has worked extensively with the police and fire departments as well as the city counsels of both cities to ensure every precaution is made during this training, said Col. Robert Hedelund, MAWTS-1 commanding officer.

None of the Marines or aircraft will be carrying live ammunition for this training, though there will be limited use of simulated ammunition.

Other safety measures will be taken to ensure there are no complications with this exercise such as additional support from the Yuma Police Depart¬ment and Yuma Fire Department who will help ensure citizens maintain a safe distance.

Also, no aircraft will fly below 500 feet over Yuma during this exercise, with the exception of landings and no aircraft fly directly over Brawley.

“The convoys going to and from the sites in town will follow all of the traf¬fic laws, and we will try not to impede traffic,” said Hedelund.

Marines from around the Corps come to Yuma and perform training evolutions in town, during both in WTI and Operation Desert Talon, another MAWTS-1 training course.

This kind of unique training is invaluable to the Marine Corps, said Hedelund.

“We are grateful to the city of Yuma and Brawley and we will do our best not to disturb the cities too much,” said Hedelund.


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