MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- Marines from Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1, along with Marines participating in the Weapons and Tactics Instructor course, held a training exercise in three different locations, Yuma Catholic High School, Ronald Reagan Elementary School, both in Yuma, and also at Pat Williams Park in Brawley, CA., Oct. 22.
The exercise was used to simulate landing in an urban area and better acquaint the pilots with the challenges they will face during an actual operation.
“The training was designed to familiarize our aviation assets with the difficulties that landing in an urban environment pose,” said Maj. Karl R. Arbogast, MAWTS-1 air department head. “There are a lot of obstacles pilots will face here in town that are just non-existent in the desert.
“The buildings and other structures in the area surrounding the school make it a challenge just locating the (landing zone),” he said.
The training exercise started with the Marines securing the perimeter around the improvised landing zone.
“The ground units had to secure the area to make sure that it’s safe for the (helicopters) to land,” said Arbogast, a native of Iowa City, Iowa.
Once the area was secured, the CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters landed to extract non-hostile prisoners and move them to a safer location.
Along with the challenges the buildings and other structures generated, the Marines guarding the landing zone also had to constantly deal with “angry nationals,” played by volunteer Marines, who continuously tested the defenses of the area.
“We were there to annoy the Marines defending the area,” said Lance Cpl. David S. Bein, aviation electronics technician for Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13, exercise volunteer and native of Silvis, Ill. “We were told to be loud and to try and distract them. We were told to give them a hard time and make this exercise difficult for them.”
The training for the ground units also helped prepare them for the heat they will face while in Iraq.
“This is great training for the younger Marines,” said Arbogast. “It helps build confidence in the Marines and helps them prepare for situations they may face in the future. It keeps them from guessing when they encounter a new situation.
“This training is to emphasis to our (helicopter) pilots, and also the Marines protecting our airfields, that while in hostile lands, you can’t be sure of what will happen next, because anything is possible,” he said.
In the end, all of the training happened thanks to the personnel at Yuma Catholic High School, Yuma and Brawley officials who allowed the Marines access to their fields.
“Anytime the Marines need a place to train in town, I always try to convince the principal to let them train here,” said Daniel M. Glynn, dean of students at Yuma Catholic, and retired Marine Corps colonel and helicopter pilot. “For this particular type of training, I can’t think of anywhere in Yuma more appropriate. We have everything in this area that most urban area’s have. We also get high winds and dust storms similar to the way it is in Iraq. For pilots who have to fly and land in dust storms like that, it is really tough, so the more practice they can get, the better.”
“We are very appreciative to the public and to the principal of (Yuma Catholic) that we were permitted to use this space,” said Arbogast. “The public has always been really responsive and supportive of us in terms of allowing us to conduct training missions here in Yuma.”
In the end, the exercise accomplished its intended purpose.
“At the conclusion of this training exercise, we accomplished everything we were looking to accomplish,” said Arbogast. “We gave the aviation assets a chance to familiarize themselves with the challenges landing in an urban setting presents and we showed the ground element the difficulties they could face while in a combat area.”