19 Oct 2018

US Marine Corps puts RAF personnel through their paces

Royal Air Force (RAF) personnel are the first overseas students to complete the Weapons Tactics Instructor Course; a grueling seven-week training initiative for the US Marine Corps.

Chinook pilots and aircrew from RAF Odiham temporarily relocated to Marine Air Corps Station Yuma in southern Arizona to complete the course. While there, they trained alongside more than 200 US Marine Corps students in some of the most realistic conditions possible.

“This is really world class training,” said Group Captain Lee Turner, Station Commander RAF Odiham and Commander of the RAF Chinook Force. “We’ve come here in effect to improve the capability of the Chinook Force and to train our people. It’s challenging for our crews and for our personnel here, not only the climatic conditions but also the complex nature of the training and the intensity of this which is a very focused seven-week course.

“It’s a proud moment to be here as the first overseas fully participating members of the course and hopefully we’ve built strong relationships with the US Marine Corps and built on relationships we’ve had in the past.”

On occasion, temperatures would reach 50 degrees centigrade to replicate those experienced in the Middle East and Africa where RAF Chinooks still operate today.

“For the students this is a testing course,” added Squadron Leader Chris Middleton, the Detachment Commander responsible for the four RAF students and four instructors. “It’s training we haven’t received on the helicopter course for a generation. The complexity and scale is an issue for the students but over three to four weeks of ground school and then a crawl, walk, run process they get to be experts by the end. The students on return to the UK will take the good lessons they’ve learnt here back to their squadrons and build them into squadron training.

“In recent wars we’ve found ourselves with the US Marine Corps fighting side by side. If we have the lessons that we’ve gained working together in our pockets already then we’re going to be a more effective fighting force.”

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