Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif. --
Marines with 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment and Combat Logistics Regiment 16 coordinated with Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 to conduct a noncombatant evacuation operation at Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field April 19.
The operation simulated an evacuation of American civilian personnel and local nationals from a foreign country and utilized a total of 27 aircraft.
The training operation spanned from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., to the Combat Center which gave Weapons and Tactics Instructor students the ability to train in various scenarios and training environments.
“The students all fill billets within the units during the training exercise,” said Maj. John Gibson, pre-deployment training officer, MAWTS-1. “There will be students flying in aircraft, there will be students running the evacuation control center, there will be ground combat element students and there will also be air officer students.”
Gibson also said the Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course is a bi-annual training evolution that integrates pilots, weapons systems operators, ground combat and combat service support units from throughout the Marine Corps.
The three-phase operation started with the landing of several MV-22 Ospreys and CH-53s into the landing zone on the lawn. Each aircraft dropped off its Marines, who immediately rushed to set up a secure perimeter around the landing zone. The pilots then took off to allow more waves of Marines and sailors to land.
The aircraft navigated through the urban terrain, which tested their ability to recognize the landing zone and land in a compressed space.
“We’re focused in working in urban and built up areas,” Gibson said. “A big part of this is planning, communicating and focusing on aircraft movement over two areas while extracting individuals who represent civilians, personnel or host nation personnel.”
After securing the landing zone, the Marines went on to set up an ECC to process the evacuees and local nationals. They screened dozens of people for contraband and correct documents to confirm their identities before they were allowed to board an aircraft to be evacuated.
Afghan role players acted the part of both the local civilians seeking rescue and insurgents attempting to get on the plane or engage the Marines in small arms fire.
“This is really good training,” said Lance Cpl. Aaron Culp, infantryman, Co. A, 1/6. “In a place like this it’s a lot more realistic than being down at a range.”
The security forces kept an eye on suspicious characters while the evacuees were thoroughly searched and processed by ECC Marines. The evacuees played their part, creating obstacles for the Marines to overcome and becoming rowdy or aggressive.
Once the perimeter was secure and the evacuees were processed the call went out for an extraction.
“This is a very important part of the training for these students,” Gibson said. “Not only planning the mission but keeping accountability for personnel over two areas separated over hundreds of miles.”
The second-phase cycled Ospreys in and out. People were evacuated and flown to an intermediate support base. The third and final phase was evacuating the security forces and ECC Marines back to MCAS Yuma, Ariz.