Military might, day-to-day operations on MCAS Yuma tour
The Sun, Yuma, Ariz.
YUMA, Ariz. — Yuma is the home of two of the nation's premier military facilities. Marine Corps Air Station Yuma is the busiest air station in the Marines and third in the Department of the Navy, while Yuma Proving Ground is the U.S. Army's busiest test center.
Whether it's been months or years since you have been to either of these bases, they both offer ways for the public to get a glimpse of what occurs there on a daily basis and at their history, from their early days until present.
Although no dates have been scheduled yet, MCAS Yuma will again be hosting a series of free tours for Yuma residents and winter visitors at the start of this year.
According to Cpl. William Waterstreet, of the MCAS Yuma public affairs office, the first of the two winter seasonal tours should be in mid-January, with another to follow probably sometime in mid- to late February.
“We don't have dates set down yet, but as of now the tentative date for the first one is Jan. 15,” said Waterstreet. “We are hoping to do at least one more after that.”
The air station's public affairs office, which conducts the tours, will issue a news release to the media to inform the public when the date of the January public tour is finalized. The dates will also be posted on the air station's website at www.yuma.usmc.mil. You can also contact the MCAS Yuma Public Affairs Office at 269-2275 or 269-2942.
To attend, visitors must travel along Avenue 3E and enter the air station via the Main Gate, which is the second gate to the right, directly across from a strip mall. A picture ID such as a passport, state driver's license or state ID card is required.
Waterstreet added that there is no sign-up for the tour. Anyone interested in taking it just needs to show up during the scheduled times on the day of the tours.
From there, visitors will board buses that will stop at various locations around the air station, where they will be able to see aircraft, vehicles, weapons and equipment used by Marines each day, as well as overseas in support of combat missions.
The Main Gate usually opens for parking between 7:45 and 8:30 a.m. for the tours, but visitors can arrive anytime between then at 10:30 a.m. to attend. Buses will depart on a staggered schedule from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. If a visitor arrives after buses depart, they may have to wait until a bus returns from a trip.
Waterstreet said some of the sites visitors will see is the PX — which is a type of retail store — the parade deck, the base housing area, the Sonoran Pueblo Club, the command building, the chapel, some of the barracks, the flight line and base operations.
Some of the aircraft on display will include the F-5, AV-8B Harriers and a search and rescue helicopter. Also, Marine Corps merchandise and refreshments will be available for purchase.
Photography and video are permitted throughout the tour, unless otherwise noted. Bathrooms are available at the parking lot and flight line display.
At the YPG Heritage Center, visitors learn about the proving ground's and the Army's history, as well as the role the base plays in the test and development of equipment for the warfighter.
There is no charge for visiting the center, which has proved to be a very popular attraction. It is open to the public Tuesday through Friday of each week from 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Numerous tours of the proving ground for schools and other groups are offered throughout the year by the Public Affairs Office.
The Heritage Center is located in the proving ground's main administrative area. It is situated off Laguna Dam Road, about a 30-minute drive from Yuma. The building the museum is located in was built in 1948 and was originally constructed as YPG's headquarters.
The museum contains a wide variety of historical artifacts and exhibits portraying the 70-year history of YPG, which began during World War II under Gen. George S. Patton in what then known as the California-Arizona Maneuver Area as a troop-training center and testing area and has evolved into the Army's busiest test center today.
From old uniforms to combat gear and inert artillery projectiles to black and white photographs, antiquated equipment and even an 1874 Sharps rifle. Curator Bill Heidner said the museum is not only a great way to learn about the history of the area, but should have something of interest for everyone.
The museum also has a small 20-seat theater that features a 30-minute program on the history of YPG, as well as several other documentaries, one of which is a very detailed look at the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The main exhibit at the museum, however, is the multimedia display titled “When Humanity Fails,” which honors the survivors of the Holocaust and the soldiers who freed them. Created as a joint effort between the U.S. Army Center of Military History and the Afikim Foundation, the display presents the Holocaust as seen through the eyes of American soldiers who liberated Nazi concentration camps in World War II.
Ten of the 35 Army divisions credited with liberating concentration camps trained in the Arizona-California maneuver area established by Patton. YPG is the only active Army installation remaining within this area.
Visitors can get passes from YPG Security to visit the YPG chapel and Heritage Center, or eat at one of the installation dining facilities. Proof of vehicle registration, insurance and proper identification are required to obtain a pass.