MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. --
In a seven-week period, the cost of sending one Marine through Weapons and Tactics Instructors course is comparable to the cost of a four-year education at an Ivy League university. Sponsored by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1, the cost to graduate one certified weapons and tactics instructor from the course is $200,000. A cost that puts each candidate through a full range of advanced aviation operations.
The WTI course serves to train the best pilots in the Marine Corps to return to their units as training experts. This process requires countless hours from the MAWTS-1 instructors and staff to ensure they are sending exceptionally-trained WTIs back to the fleet Marine force.
“These students will be the people who the commanding officer looks to when it comes to handling the training plan of an entire squadron,” said the Academic Department Head, WTI, MAWTS-1. “He looks at them to be the guy who says, ‘We’re good to go to combat.’ He’s the guy the CO will trust.”
Before pilots can even attend the advanced course, they must fulfill a slew of prerequisite certifications, to include low-altitude tactics instructor and air combat tactics instructor. Pilots achieve most of these certifications from their units, building their experience base in order to qualify them for the WTI course.
“These pilots are already instructors before they come out here,” said the Academic Department Head. “We also go see these Marines fly three to six times a year before they come to WTI. We can say, based off our experience, if a Marine we observed is ready to go to WTI, or if they need to work on something.”
On the first day of class, the pilots receive a 50-question inventory test. This is followed by nearly two months of classroom instruction, flight simulators and piloting training flights on their specific aircraft. The course begins with instruction exclusive to each student’s aircraft then expands to advance training that incorporates other platforms and units. The students will graduate as experts on their particular aircraft, with the knowledge of how to plan and how to train others. These skills acquired from the course will ultimately be applied to their fleet units and Marine Corps operations as part of the Marine Air Ground Task Force.
“During the final exercise, everyone is working together. From close air support, to battalion lifts, the whole MAGTF is involved,” explained the Academic Department Head. “When we get to that final exercise in WTI, it’s all on the students. They know how to put together a plan and execute, so we are sitting back for the most part just being safety backstops.”
Much like the selection process for the students who attend WTI, the staff is selected for the high-level of expertise that they bring to course. WTI instructors’ contribution to training and standardization of coursework is what makes WTI the valuable asset it is to the Marine Corps.
“All the instructors who teach here are handpicked,” said the Academic Department Head. “We do everything we can to ensure the fleet is getting back the best instructors possible.”
The Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course is a seven-week course consisting of advanced tactical aviation training designed to produce weapons and tactics instructors. A WTI will serve in key training officer billets to act as a training expert in the fleet, ensuring that Marine aviation units continue to train effectively and to a standard across the Marine Corps. It is courses like WTI that reinforce the Marine Corps’ role as our nation’s force in readiness.