MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. --
The Marines of Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 4 are participating in their first Weapons and Tactics Instructor course here, spending more than a week in the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range in California.
While the newly minted squadron doesn’t have any students in the class, the entire squadron is gaining valuable operational experience supporting one of the world’s premier combat aviation courses.
The squadron’s RQ-7B Shadows have been flying over the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range in support of certain training evolutions, providing commanders on the ground aerial video feeds of assaults, as well as offensive air support, said Maj. Brian Cole, VMU-4 detachment commander.
“This is the first time VMU-4 has had the opportunity to integrate with the air combat element,” said Cole. “It’s been a steep learning curve, and we’re becoming more combat effective.”
The expanded use of unmanned aerial vehicles in combat zones has led to the increased participation of VMUs in WTI.
“The tactics for air combat continuously evolve with new weapons systems and aircraft,” said Cole, a former Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 instructor. “MAWTS-1 is the center for excellence, so their job is to continually update tactics. VMUs serve as a force multiplier for the Marine Air-Ground Task Force.”
The squadron’s Yuma detachment is the active duty component of the reserve squadron, which is based in Fort Hood, Texas, said Cole.
The new squadron is also expected to alleviate the busy deployment schedule of the other three UAV squadrons, which typically leapfrog through deployments so that one of them is nearly always deployed.
“The rest of the unit is just beginning to organize, and they’ll be relying heavily on our experience,” said Cole. “We’ll be the core of the unit when we do eventually deploy in the future.”