NAVAL AIR FACILITYEL CENTRO, Calif. --
Numerous units are participating in the first modified WTI, also known as Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course, held aboard Naval Air Facility El Centro, Calif.
The event incorporates more than 500 service members and is scheduled to conclude April 28.
More than 300 Marines complete the bi-annual Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course, held aboard Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., for advanced training in their individual roles within a Marine Air Ground Task Force.
The El Centro WTI 2-12 course is led by Col. Michael Cederholm, MAG- 31 commanding officer, MCAS Beaufort. Additionally, WTI 2-12 will be assessed by Marine Air Wing Training Squadron 1 under the command of Col. Bradford Gering.
Marine Aircraft Group 31 is fulfilling the command role of a Marine Air Combat Element, facilitating individual flights and incorporating all functions of Marine aviation into the event.
The various aircraft used during this exercise will cover all six aspects of Marine Corps aviation including: assault support, anti-aircraft warfare, offensive air support, aerial reconnaissance, and electronic warfare.
“This initially came through the commanding general as a vision to maximize high quality training and minimize the cost,” Cederholm said. “We are training MAG-31 to function as battle staff able to run combat operations centers in any environment, and we are fleshing out that ability by training with and against the best in aircraft combat operations to crush whatever threat comes next.
“Being the pioneer of this event, we consider ourselves fortunate and honored to be given the privilege to capitalize on such high quality training.”
The exercise sets new standards for Marine Corps training evolutions by acting as a trial run for supporting WTI and facilitating new ways to enhance aviation capabilities.
“This training evolution sets a viable blueprint for [the rest of] the Corps,” Cederholm said. “This affects all of Marine Aviation, especially the high-end capability aircraft including Hornets, Harriers, Prowlers and even the F-35 as it comes online as well.”
Marine Aircraft Group 31 has never assumed command of an operation of this scale, and as such, this is the first time the Marines within its command have worked together with so many different units. The group also facilitated full spectrum training while completing different mission objectives.
“The (Marine Aircraft Group) is learning how to use, assume command of and best employ the aircraft present to maximize the (impact) they can provide in a time of war,” Cederholm said. “Weapons and Tactics Instructors Course is a great evolution for MAGTF training, because we are able to test and train all the different elements – it is the pinnacle of training in Marine Corps aviation.”
Operations will involve participation from MAG- 31, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122, Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533, Marine Attack Squadron 231, Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 167, Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron-467 and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31.
“This construct allows us to incorporate everyone into the WTI syllabus events into Large Force Exercise for the scenarios developed by us,” said MAG-31 sergeant major, Sgt. Major John Canty. “The simple fact that we are all here together in the middle of the desert unites us and frankly it makes us better at deploying altogether.
“As fixed-wing aircraft go in and sanitize an area, the helicopters drop-off and pickup ground combat personnel to complete their mission and fixed wing provides cover for their exit. As the ACE commander and ACE sergeant major, we control the subordinate units in this group so bringing the Marines together is fairly easy.”
Once the event concludes, the Marines will be evaluated on their performance to promote productivity and efficiency in the next cycle of events.
“Once we finish here, I predict we will have exposed our maintainers and our aviators to the best training in the free world,” Cederholm said. “We will depart from El Centro and disband from Task Force Kaiser able to wage war and [defeat our enemies] anywhere in the world. Personally, I am impressed with the level of hard work and dedication each Marine involved in this exercise has shown.
“Everyone will carry a piece of our success here with them, knowing they affected the rest of Marine Corps aviation.”