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Yuma's WTI wraps up with final exercise: Operation War Wagon pushes students’ limits

By Desert Warrior Staff | | November 4, 2010

The final exercise for Yuma's Weapons and Tactics Instructor course took place Oct. 29-30, 2010, on the Barry M. Goldwater Range in Ariz., testing the skills taught to student pilots and ground operators throughout their time in Yuma.

Operation War Wagon combined close-air support, armed reconnaissance, ground combat, offensive-air support and quick-strike maneuvers to test the students participating.

“It’s been a tough few weeks,” said Capt. Ryan Caulder, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 pilot and WTI student. “We’ve really been pushed to the edge, but we learned how to do what needs to be done in order to accomplish our mission and ensure Marine safety.”

On Friday, the overall ground forces’ objective was to seize a simulated enemy airfield, weakening their enemies’ defenses, so the students could perform an air raid on the remaining forces the following day.

“The objectives are being met and the students are living up to what they’ve been taught,” said Capt. Andrew Markoff, Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 ground combat officer and an exercise safety officer. “The raid and air attacks went well on Friday and the strike on Saturday went even better.”

Along with the air power brought to bare on the enemy, approximately 250 Marines from 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, based at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., also participated in the exercise.

“The Marines are performing well, utilizing their training and getting valuable experience before our deployment,” said Capt. Richard McKenzie, E Company commanding officer with the battalion. “We’ve really improved on our tactics and (standard operating procedures) when leaving an aircraft, and it’s great fun running through the desert watching my Marines fire off live rounds and move like they’re supposed to.”

The infantrymen are scheduled to deploy in the summer of 2011.

“Overall, I really like these kinds of exercises,” said 1st Sgt. Rogello Harro, E Company first sergeant. “They bring out the best in people, from the pilots doing their best to accomplish the mission and keep us safe, to my Marines getting as tired as they would in country and practicing the skills that they’ll use while on deployment.”

The next WTI course is scheduled for spring of 2011.

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