Marines expand WTI training exercise in Yuma
The Sun, Yuma, Ariz.
An extra touch of realism is being added to a Marine training exercise in Yuma with the addition of Yuma Regional Medical Center to the locations around the city that will be involved in a simulated foreign humanitarian disaster relief effort.
The hospital is one of four locations that will be part of the training exercise held by students in the WTI (Weapons and Tactics Instructor) course this fall.
WTI brings Marine aviators from around the country to Yuma twice a year for some of the most realistic training possible in advanced aviation tactics, techniques and procedures. For the "final," students plan and conduct an evacuation of civilians in a simulated noncombatant humanitarian mission.
"There's some changes this time," Col. Bradford Gering told the Yuma City Council during a recent briefing on the upcoming exercise. He noted that during the last exercise, only Kiwanis Park was involved.
This year Trinity Christian Center, Crane Middle School and YRMC have been added to the scenario. The exercise will take place the evening of Oct. 18.
Under the training scenario, a friendly host country will ask for assistance from the American military in response to a natural disaster, explained Capt. Jamie Glines. A simulated refuge camp will be set up at Kiwanis Park where an emergency medical team will be inserted. Casualties will be evacuated to a field medical camp set up at Trinity Christian Center, a key part of the evening's exercise. Others will be transported by helicopter to a medical center, portrayed by YRMC.
"There will be multiple day and night landings at Trinity Christian Center and YRMC," he said, emphasizing that the landings at the hospital will not interfere with actual emergency landings on the helipad there.
Meanwhile at Crane Middle School, other Marines will be assessing whether to set up a second refuge camp.
"It will be a very busy night," Glines said. "We expect a lot of good training for the students."
The exercise provides WTI students with realistic training consistent with missions they may well encounter as natural disasters strike around the world, Glines said. For example, Marines provided relief assistance during the floods that devastated Pakistan in 2010.
Spectators are encouraged to come out and watch the action at all the locations, Glines said. For their personal safety, they should follow instructions and directions of local authorities and exercise personnel.
The hospital is pleased to partner with Marine Corps Air Station Yuma for the training exercise, said Mark Hutsell, director of patient safety for YMRC.
"We have had a memo of understanding for the past several years with MCAS Yuma regarding the use of our helipad for training exercises," he said. "MCAS regularly utilizes our helipad to conduct 'touch and go' landings to maintain proficiency and familiarity with the challenges our location provides."
And on occasion, the Marines have put that practice to practical use when they've been called upon to transport patients by helicopter to the hospital for medical treatment, Hutsell said.
"We welcome the opportunity to partner with all participants in WTI this year," he said. "It is through strategic partnerships such as these that the entire Yuma community is better prepared to respond to emergencies."