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thedrifter
04-18-06, 07:47 AM
Marines gear up with pilot rescue exercise at YPG
BY MICHELLE VOLKMANN, SUN STAFF WRITER
Apr 15, 2006

YUMA PROVING GROUND — Marines are getting into war mode.

"They actually pick it up. They know that they are deploying. They know the time has come when their life and their fellow Marines' lives depends on it," said Lt. Col. Freddie Blish. "We mentally prepare them. They know there are no tourists in the battlefield."

About 375 Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron-373 from Miramar, Calif., participated in a helicopter pilot rescue exercise at YPG Friday morning. It's the second time the group has done this particular exercise during its Yuma training.

The group arrived at the end of March. It will leave on April 25. It's expected to return to Yuma for Desert Talon, a training exercise involving multiple Marine units, in June. In August, they will deploy to Iraq.

The California Marines are in Yuma as part of the Weapons and Tactics Instructor course. WTI, which is organized by the MCAS' Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron-1, takes place twice a year.

The noncombatant evacuation operation for the semiannual course was canceled Friday because of "high winds and low visibility," said Capt. Beatriz Yarrish, MCAS spokeswoman.

MWSS-373's training took place Friday morning before the high winds blew in.

The Marines were practicing the scenario of rescuing a pilot of a shot down helicopter. They also need to get the insurgents who shot down the aircraft and detain them.

"We throw different variables at them so they don't know what to expect," Gunnery Sgt. William Neudauer said. "You never know what is going to happen."

The scenario is based on actual situations in Iraq, Blish said. During the invasion of Iraq, MWSS-373 helped out in 21 aircraft recovery missions, Blish said.

While the Marines secured the area, they simulated that an improvised explosive device was set off. Another Marine played dead.

Pvt. Nicholas Stephens, a military police officer, was that Marine. He hasn't been to Iraq yet and this is his first major training exercise.

"It's actually pretty real to me," he said. "I didn't expect to be injured. I got caught in the crossfire."

The Marines were also in Yuma in June 2004 before their deployment to Iraq. This training is exactly what the Marines need to prepare, Sgt. Maj. Wallington Sims said.

"It's priceless," he said.

Michelle Volkmann can be reached at mvolkmann@yumasun.com or 539-6855.

Ellie