MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Arizona -- During the semiannual Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 2-17, Marines and Sailors conducted Assault Support Tactics 3 supporting Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, April 21, 2017.
Lasting seven weeks, WTI is a training evolution hosted by MAWTS-1 which provides standardized advanced and tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine aviation training and readiness.
The AST-3 training focused on conducting noncombatant evacuation operations in an urban environment, which took place at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, 29 Palms, California while providing foreign humanitarian assistance to the simulated host nation, which took place in the city of Yuma at various locations including Kiwanis Park.
“This training is half security and half humanitarian operations,” said 1st Lt. Jacob Pipping, executive officer of Alpha Battery, 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense. “It’s an uncertain environment that we have to operate in, there’s not necessarily a credible enemy threat but there could be.”
Kiwanis Park simulated a notional foreign country, with a landing zone used to bring in supplies such as water, food, and medical supplies and ground forces for additional security.
To make the training realistic, Marines supporting MAWTS-1 crowded the closed perimeter of Kiwanis Park, acting as the foreign countries natives who are discontent with U.S. troops on their land.
“We’re role playing trying to cause some realistic conflict for the units out here,” said Cpl. Jacob Rivera, a gunner with 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, Weapons Company, Combined Anti Armor Team 1. “The card I received says I’m a 45-year-old man who is angry because my home was destroyed by U.S. airstrike, so I’m causing a lot of commotion and yelling at the Marines.”
The role players became confrontational by breaking the perimeter barriers, testing ground forces on how to react when there is a breach in security. Marines were tested on how they communicated with the local population, offering food, water, and medical treatment to those in need.
“There’s been a disturbance and some locals need medical assistance so they’ve called Marines to secure the area, but also a medical team to help the local populace as a whole,” said Navy Lt. Christopher Mullahey, medical officer of Victor 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines. “When the locals in the area know we’re here they bring us sick and injured patients, and come for food and water. So we’re here non-threatening to help out the local population.”
This training gave Marines a unique opportunity to step outside their comfort zones in conducting humanitarian effort operations they are not used to getting, according to Pipping.
“These are the types of operations the Marine Corps is most likely to see in the future,” said Pipping. “As Marines we naturally are always ready to be in the fight, so this was fantastic training because the students had to put themselves in the peoples shoes of who’s country they are trying to protect and help. This training took the Marines out of their comfort zone made the environment realistic, teaching them they couldn’t just have an aggressive approach. Showing that though there is no worse enemy, there is also no better friend than a United States Marines, that’s what AST-3 is all about.”