Red Tails train with Marines in Yuma

Two airmen attach a GBU-12 Paveway II bomb to the wing of an F-16 Fighting Falcon.

Master Sergeant Dominique Palmer and Master Sergeant Stanley Talley, 187th Maintenance Squadron weapons load crew, secure a GBU-12 Paveway II to an F-16C+ Fighting Falcon at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., April 9, 2021. The Red Tails participated in a Weapons and Tactics Instructor course capstone event March 25-April 23, 2021. The capstone was an opportunity to apply the F-16 mission set to a large-scale exercise.

Two airmen equip an F-16 Fighting Falcon with a GBU-12 Paveway II bomb.

Airman First Class Madalyn Pilcher and Senior Airman Ashley Wightman, 187th Maintenance Squadron weapons loaders, load a live GBU-12 Paveway II onto an F-16C+ Fighting Falcon at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., April 9, 2021. The Red Tails participated in a Weapons and Tactics Instructor course capstone event March 25-April 23, 2021. The capstone was an opportunity to apply the F-16 mission set to a large-scale exercise.

Two airmen sit and drink water underneath an F-16C+ Fighting Falcon.

Senior Airman Laurence Lim and Airman 1st Class Garret Jones, 187th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chiefs, sit against an F-16C+ at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., April 16, 2021. The crew chiefs prepare aircraft for launch and recover aircraft after a sortie by servicing the aircraft systems and tires. The Red Tails participated in a Weapons and Tactics Instructor course capstone event March 25-April 23, 2021. The capstone was an opportunity to apply the F-16 mission set to a large-scale exercise.

Three airmen affix an F-16C+ Fighting Falcon with a GBU-12 Paveway II bomb.

Staff Sergeant Andrew Weisenberger, Airman First Class Caleb Schmittendorf, and Master Sergeant Lauren Harlan, 187th Maintenance Squadron weapons loaders equip the F-16C+ with a GBU-12 Paveway II at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., April 9, 2021. The weapons loaders provided pilots with live ordnance in support of simulated combat sorties they would fly later that day. The Red Tails participated in a Weapons and Tactics Instructor course capstone event March 25-April 23, 2021. The capstone was an opportunity to apply the F-16 mission set to a large-scale exercise.

DANNELLY FIELD, Ala. --

About 260 airmen and 13 F-16C+ Fighting Falcons are participating in Marine Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 2-21 March 25 through April 21, 2021, at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz.

This exercise, hosted by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One, focuses on aviation integration in support of a Marine Air Ground Task Force.

“[Weapons and Tactics Instructor course] is unique in the way we approach large force exercises,” said Marine Corps Lt. Col. Nathaniel Early, MAWTS-1 operations officer. "We are developing tactical leaders by allowing the students to plan, brief and lead large missions with scenarios that mimic real world adversaries."

This joint training environment allows units to practice tactics alongside aviation communities they will work with when forward deployed and fly scenarios they might otherwise only see in combat.

"These missions integrate all functions of the Marine Corps warfighting capability while also leveraging the capabilities of joint participants," said Early.

The training course culminates in a capstone event where aircrew and airframes from a variety of military services will fly in simulated combat scenarios.

“For our pilots, the capstone event is a chance to apply our multiple mission sets as part of a large-scale operation,” said Lt. Col. Brian Miller, 100th Fighter Squadron director of operations. “It is one thing to fly sorties in our local airspace, it’s another to get into an airspace with the other players and the ground components and see how we perform in the debrief.”

Part of the capstone involves long range strikes in simulated combat scenarios with live weapons. The use of live ordnance gives ground crew hands-on experience in the handling and assembly of live munitions, which is a more realistic learning experience compared with inert ordnance.