MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- Since the Weapons and Tactics Instructor course 1-15, operated by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1, commenced in early September, Marine Corps Air Station Yuma and its encompassing ranges have been buzzing with activity.
The Yuma community can easily recognize the station’s recent upsurge in aviation operations, evident by the increased volume and sightings of various aircraft in the sky. What they don’t see, however, is the hard work being put forth by the Marines on the ground - Marines who have congregated from all corners of the United States to support WTI, and whose efforts during the exercise gives aviation students a deeper understanding of the aviation combat element’s wartime role.
3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, based out of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, is serving as ground support for WTI 1-15, and has temporarily relocated to the Kofa Ranges on Yuma Proving Grounds, Yuma, Ariz. While their main effort in Yuma has been in support of their fellow aviators, they have also taken the time to develop and carry out their own unit level training.
The motor transport platoon with 3/3 departed from their simulated forward operating base, Thursday, in order to conduct an advanced convoy exercise. The training would present these logistically-savvy Marines with common crises they might expect in a combat zone, such as an ambush or improvised explosion device (IED) threat, as they perform a routine resupply.
“Our main job [as motor transport] is to support the infantry and, almost every time we do that, we’re going to be in dangerous situations,” said Staff Sgt. Salvador Rodriguez, the motor transport operations chief for 3/3.
Rodriguez explained that it can be difficult for 3/3 to conduct personalized mission sets and deviate from their day-to-day schedule while at MCB Hawaii.
This is why Rodriguez and his staff have made a concerted effort to coordinate experiences that the Marines are unfamiliar with during their support of WTI. The Marines will be required to employ military skills that they don’t normally use, all in the hope of creating more knowledgeable motor transport specialists and well-rounded warfighters.
“If they are ever in a combat zone and run into these kinds of situations, they need to know how to react,” said Rodriguez. “If somebody gets blown up or hurt, they need to know the procedures and quickly respond – provide proper care for the injured, use communications efficiently and set up a landing zone for a hasty casualty evacuation.”
Rodriguez believes that the unexpected complications he and his staff presented during the convoy - such as an IED placement, detonation and subsequent casualties – provided for a more realistic, combative and intricate scenario that would challenge the unit as a whole.
Some complications were even unanticipated by the staff itself.
“[The exercise] became harder when the communication systems went down,” explained Lance Cpl. Bodjanac, an automotive organizational mechanic for 3/3, and a Stow, Ohio, native. “We had to relay our info by screaming from vehicle to vehicle, but that’s stuff you have deal with and overcome. That’s why it’s so important to train as a team and work around any nuisance that may pop up.”
The Marines of 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment will continue to conduct training in the Yuma area until their support of WTI is complete in mid-October.