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Yuma air station NEO exercise adds skill set to Marines’ arsenal

By Pfc. Sean Dennison | | October 28, 2010

More than 120 Marines participated in a noncombatant evacuation operation exercise in both Yuma and Brawley, Calif., Oct. 22, 2010, as part of the Weapons and Tactics Instructor course.

The exercise, which is a staple of the WTI curriculum, simulates an extraction operation of American citizens from an American embassy in hostile territory.

The exercise also provided ample opportunity for Marines to expand their repertoire of mission capabilities.

“The exercise gives a chance to practice a different aspect of the infantry, the non-combative role that we normally play during peacetime,” said Cpl. Jonathan Maule, squad leader with E Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, based in Twentynine Palms, Calif.. “It also takes us down a notch and makes us use our other setting: not killing. We have to be respectful and firm but in most occasions not use force to manage the situation.”

While infantrymen unloaded from CH-53 Super Stallions and CH-46 Sea Knights to set up security parameters and made contact with role-playing evacuees, UH-1N Hueys patrolled the skies, providing close-air support as well as flying in to remove additional role players as needed.

“It’s a complicated operation in many aspects,” said Capt. Andrew Markoff, Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 infantry instructor. “It requires a different skill set with Marines. They must be able to interact with the populous, be familiar with the rules of engagement and make tough decisions on the fly.”

The exercise not only familiarized Marines with evacuation procedures, but also afforded local civilians a glimpse at another aspect of military operations.

“I’m glad the city let the Marines do this here,” said Brawley resident Hugh Kissick Jr. “It’s always fun to watch. These guys have got to get the practice for this, and it’s cool to watch them be able to get the helicopters off the ground faster and faster as the night goes by.”

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