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A CH-53 ‘Super Stallion’ takes Marine role-players back to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., from the Combat Center, as part of a Non-combatant Evacuation Operation Exercise in support Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 2-16 April 15, 2016. (Official Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Thomas Mudd/Released)

Photo by Cpl. Thomas Mudd

NEO exercise held aboard Combat Center

25 Apr 2016 | Cpl. Thomas Mudd Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One conducted a Non-combatant Evacuation Operation exercise aboard the Combat Center April 15, 2016.

MAWTS-1 conducted the NEO exercise as part of Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 2-16. The WTI course is used to provide Marines with advanced tactical aviation training to certify them as weapons and tactics instructors for their units. WTI is a seven-week course consisting of 18 academic training days followed by the flight phase which consists of 25 training days where they apply their skills to various scenarios.

Each weapons and tactics instructor averages more than 90 days every year providing support to their respective units including certification, standardization, and supplementary ground and airborne instruction.

“Making the exercise as close to real life as possible helps prepare Marines for if they have to perform an evacuation like this,” said Sgt. Rafael Sanchez, role-player, Tactical Training Exercise Control Group.

The exercise spanned from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. to the Combat Center. As the aircraft landed, Marines of 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment and Combat Logistics Battalion 24, set up an Evacuation Control Center and began preparing role-players acting as U.S. citizens to be evacuated.

The five-hour exercise afforded Marines a chance to practice the procedures of evacuating U.S. personnel and local civilians from a foreign country. The operation utilized aircraft such as the CH-53 ‘Super Stallion’ helicopters and the MV-22 ‘Osprey’ tilt rotor aircraft to conduct the simulated evacuations.

“We are here to test the Marines and make sure they are able handle a variety of situations,” Sanchez said. “We provide our own role-players to act as local nationals of the area and act as aggressors as the night progresses. We continue to escalate the force of the local nationals to give the Marines participating an idea of what may happen during an evacuation like this one.”

The exercise required aircraft landing at three locations aboard the installation, Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field, Del Valle Field and the Sand Hill training area. As the role-players finished going through the ECC, they were escorted to the aircraft and taken to MCAS Yuma.

“This exercise continues to keep Marines ready for any situation that may arise,” said Gunnery Sgt. Isaac Carlson, staff noncommissioned officer in charge, Role Player Section, TTECG.

“We are always training to be prepared for a crisis. Exercises like this keep Marines on their toes and ready for when they need to go and save lives.”

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms