MAWTS-1 hones warfighting edge.
Major James Reed, MAWTS-1 operations officer, explained the value of the WTI training, "We ensure that everyone does things in a uniform manner so that all of the fleet squadrons are consistent. It is an excellent course for Marine Corps aviation, and we have students from all of the other services. They see the value in the course and it helps them work in contemporary joint operations worldwide."
Each six-week WTI course has approximately 175 students, with at least one student from almost every Marine aviation unit. The first two and a half weeks provide classroom instruction, beginning with the "big picture" of the six functions of Marine Corps aviation--offensive air support, antiair warfare, assault support, aerial reconnaissance, electronic warfare, and control of missiles and aircraft. Maj. Reed explained that "at the beginning, students and instructors will train with their own communities. As time goes on, they begin working with other communities and integrate into various larger operations."
Special guest speakers describing their real-world experiences are a valuable component of the classroom phase. Colonel Marty Post, MAWTS-1 CO, said, "One who was memorable was a Special Forces master sergeant controller who was one of the first to go into Afghanistan. He directed airpower to targets including more than 850 joint direct attack munition drops. He talked about his equipment, different techniques, directing different types of aircraft, what worked and what didn't work."
The second half of the course involves three and a half weeks of flight training to reinforce academic objectives with hands-on experience. All flights include a MAWTS-1 instructor, and both inert and live ordnance are utilized. A complete command and control system is operational throughout the Yuma Training Range Complex during WTI to coordinate the approximately 2,500 personnel and 70 aircraft that participate in a given course. Instead of a "final exam," the students participate in a week-long final exercise during which they plan and carry out a fully integrated combined ARMS operation.
MAWTS-1 conducts several other courses during WTI, such as an intelligence officers course; aviation ground support and logistics officers course; rotary wing crew chief and KC-130 navigator, loadmaster, flight engineer weapons and tactics instructor course; and enlisted weapons and tactics courses. Throughout the year the squadron offers other curricula in addition to WTI, such as the tactical air commanders course and the air combat element (ACE) commanders course, as well as a mobile training curriculum consisting of ACE training, Marine air-ground task force aviation integration and Marine division tactics courses.
MAWTS-1 maintains close, mutually beneficial contact with the aviation and tactics schools of the U.S. Navy, Army, Air Force and several allied nations, which allows the WTI training to reflect the realities of joint operations. The variety of aircraft participating in the spring 2002 course illustrates the joint-training concept: Marine EA-6B Prowlers, AV-8B Harrier IIs, KC-130F/T Hercules, F/A-18A/D Hornets, AH-1W Super Cobras, UH-1N "Hueys," CH-46E Sea Knights and CH-53D/E Sea Stallions were complemented by Navy E-2C Hawkeyes, F/A-18C Hornets and F-5E/F Tiger IIs, as well as Air Force E-3B Sentry, E-8C Joint Surveillance/Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS), EC-130H Compass Call, F-16 Fighting Falcon, RC-135 Rivet Joint and A-10A Thunderbolt aircraft.
The WTI curriculum is continually updated to integrate contemporary systems and methodology, such as lessons learned from Operation Enduring Freedom. For example, in the spring course, "We set up 15-20 Soviet-style vehicles around the Twentynine Palms [Calif.] ranges," Col. Post explained. "We sent F/A-18s and AV-8Bs, using an armed reconnaissance method, to find and destroy the vehicles. We had a JSTARS on station to pass along the targeting information to the strike aircraft, which would locate and engage the targets. This was a great exercise and was pertinent to the way we did business in Afghanistan. We also used the AH-1W Super Cobras and UH-1N 'Hueys' to escort light armored vehicles and light armored reconnaissance vehicles, flying slightly ahead to ensure the area was clear, and to give the ground troops instant on-call close air support if needed." The severe brownout conditions and high altitudes that challenged helicopter operations in Afghanistan may become a training scenario in a future course .
The biennial training can also be a test bed for developing procedures and methods for new hardware and equipment. Included in the spring curriculum was the validation of the next-generation .50 caliber machine gun, the M3M, on the CH-46E and CH-53D/E. Col. Post explained, "It has a superior rate of fire, up from about 700-800 rounds per minute on our older guns up to 1,100 rounds per minute now. We have been making refinements to how it mounts in the windows and we may even adapt the weapon to the ground side. Personnel from the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab and Europe are here to help out with the development of it, too. The fleet crew chiefs have an opportunity to use and critique the system, and by the time it enters production it will be a proven design."
Col. Post concluded, "All of the people working for me here have been hand-picked by their various communities, and I get the best of the best. Having such quality people makes my job easy--they are always looking for a better way of doing something and they are proactive." With that kind of dedication, the personnel of MAWTS-1 can offer the fleet unparalleled warfighting training.
Ted Carlson is a professional aviation photographer. Special thanks to Col. Marty Post; Lt. Col. Bernard Krueger; Majs. Jon Hackett, Kevin Hudson, Mike Huff, John Ostrowski, Tim Patrick, John Peck and James Reed; Capts. Tanya Murnock and Scott Trail; Lts. Kevin Hyde and Jeremy Yamada; Sgt. Eric Cantu; and the many others who provided assistance.