MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. --
Stepping into the body of an armed and loaded UH-1Y Venom helicopter, a sense of mission readiness envelops the crew. As air-chopping blades cut through the musty desert air, the helo takes a ready stance on the visiting squadron tarmac at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, Tuesday.
“The Huey is a utility helicopter. It gives us a wide range of mission sets; it’s a very capable and versatile platform,” said Maj. Mark Mirra, a UH-1Y pilot with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 267, and a native of Stafford, Virginia. “It gives us a lot of options. It gives us that many more opportunities to support the ground units in various different ways.”
The UH-1Y Huey and its crew from HMLA-267, based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, rip through the sky at a fast, controlled and determined pace, looking to hone the low altitude skills needed to support the ground combat element. Ingress, egress, casualty evacuation and fire support evolutions are all in the itinerary for the Stingers’ week-long stay.
“DFT’s [deployment for training] are important because we can get a lot of experience and a lot of training done out here,” said Lance Cpl. Larry Vescomarrujo, a UH-1Y crew chief with HMLA-267, and native of Orange, California. “The fact that Yuma has urban ranges really helps us get ready for possible urban combat environments we might face in the future.”
With a vast area of open terrain and range space, MCAS Yuma is the optimal staging ground for aviation assets looking to train in the air. For this reason, HMLA-267 has come to Yuma to sharpen their expeditionary abilities and introduce their Marines to a different working environment.
“Personally, training here gives me knowledge, experience and the opportunity to improve,” said Lance Cpl. Kevin Herrera, a HMLA-267 crew chief and a native of Palmdale, California.
While flying over the Chocolate Mountains Aerial Gunnery Range, the day’s evolution calls for crewmembers to re-familiarize themselves with a tactical approach and the handling capabilities of the helicopter. The rounds fired impact the desert targets below with a subtle but resounding thud in rapid succession; ammunition kicks the white sand up, leaving puffs of smoke trailing below.
“[MCAS Yuma] is great because it’s very aviation centric,” added Mirra. “The weather here helps facilitate what we need. The support structure, the hangars, south CALA [Combat Aircraft Loading Apron] – it’s all very well maintained here.”
Reinforcing the Marine Air Ground Task Force concept is a crucial element of HMLA-267 and their mission. To accomplish that objective, MCAS Yuma remains a vital beacon for aviation training to Marines worldwide.