With Media Credentials in hand, I drove to Yuma, Arizona to attend the Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) course 2-18 Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Recovery (HA/DR) exercise. This is one of our favorite photo shoots of the year, and we always look forward to it. Unfortunately, Rylan was not able to attend with me this time. While students and instructors participating in Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron (MAWTS-1)'s WTI 2-18 conducted a HA/DR exercise in Yuma, Arizona, I was there to photograph the exercise. The helicopter traffic came from a different direction than normal, so I didn't get the photos that I was planning. But, I was still able to come away with some unexpected photography.
In past years, WTI students would practice non-combatant evacuation training at Kiwanis Park to help students prepare for real world incidents that require a quick reaction force to extract U.S. and allied personnel from hostile situations. In an effort to broaden WTI students’ understanding of how to respond to natural disasters and how to assist people who are displaced from their homes due to hostilities or catastrophic weather, this year’s exercise in Yuma will show how Marines can provide essential aid to those in dire need around the globe. The HA/DR exercise is used to practice the delivery of medical personnel, supplies and vital natural resources to help sustain people displaced from their communities after a natural disaster.
Following the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, the Marine Corps took part in a HA/DR assistance operation to support Japan in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. The Marine contribution to the relief effort, designated Operation Tomodachi, included CH-53s from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU) operating from the Navy’s forward-deployed amphibious assault ship, the USS Essex. The 31st MEU delivered more than 164,000 lbs of food and supplies to five cities, one island, and one Japanese ship.