April 19, 2013 --
Dozens of local residents gathered around Kiwanis Park in Yuma, Ariz. to watch helicopters land as a part of the Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Recovery training exercise on April 19 conducted by Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course students, Combat Arms Marines and Combat Service Support personnel training with Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One. The exercise was conducted to test and improve the Corps’ capability to quickly assess, plan and execute support to individuals impacted by conflict or natural disasters.
For this specific exercise, students were placed in a simulated scenario which required them to develop a plan to deliver medical personnel, supplies and vital natural resources to sustain people displaced from their communities. Fixed and rotary wing aircraft were used to support this mission, including CH-53s, UH-1Ns, C-130s and AV-8Bs. The HA/DR was conducted between Marine Corps Air Station Yuma and Kiwanis Park, providing a realistic training environment in a civilian setting to help students become comfortable with executing missions in real-life situations.
There are three main phases of an HA/DR. Phase one is to swiftly insert security forces and drop off medical personnel via helicopter to the site in question. The second phase is to provide aid and shelter to dislocated civilians if necessary and the third phase is to evacuate injured civilians to a safe location.
In this specific exercise, the security force Marines provided external security, initial screening, and removed any weapons and contraband items from evacuees. They also established an evacuation control center and ran civilian role players through the process of registering, moving them to the appropriate location, searching and screening, and evacuating them.
“(The exercise) shows that Marines aren’t just about combat, they do humanitarian efforts also,” says Captain David Beere, a South Orange, N.J. native and Marine Aviation and Weapons Tactics Squadron One Infantry Instructor for the Ground Combat Department. “The Marine Corps is America’s force of readiness, and we are called to handle all sorts of missions - whether its disaster relief in a place like Haiti, or a full on combat operation in a place like Afghanistan.”
An example of a recent HA/DR was after the flooding in Pakistan in 2010 where over 20 million people were displaced due to flooding, and over 2,000 people died. United States Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and 26th MEU were able to provide medical aid and emergency food items to assist those impacted on the ground while attached to U.S. Naval vessels at sea.
Prior to 2013, MAWTS-1 WTI students’ only practiced Non-Combatant Evacuation Operation training to test and improve WTI students’ capability to evacuate personnel in a hostile country in coordination with the State Department. Students respond to an Embassy in a foreign country that is in danger and has requested military evacuation support. The students develop a plan to set up security, process in U.S. and other personnel and relocate them to a safe location. For the March through April 2013 course, MAWTS-1 has now incorporated a second Military Operation Other Than War training scenario to prepare students for non-combat related crisis response operations.
In order to facilitate both training exercises and provide aviators a more realistic distance to travel simulating ship to shore, the NEO was conducted between MCAS Yuma and Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Training Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif. Up to 18 aircrafts were used to include C-130s, AV-8Bs, MV-22 Ospreys and F/A-18 Hornets.
By introducing a diverse mix of training operations within the WTI training package, Marines will be better trained to respond if and when a real-life scenario occurs.
“Any time Marines get the chance to practice maneuvers hands-on and walk through step by step is much more effective than sitting in a classroom,” says Beere. “Conducting this exercise in the middle of a city is beneficial to Marines because it gives them a sense of realism; they see the houses of the local people. But more importantly it’s an opportunity for America to see their Marines in action, and know that the Marines are training hard.”