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MAWTS-1 "freezes"

Marine Corps News

Story Identification #: 2005311113727
Story by Cpl. Giovanni Lobello

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. (March 10, 2005) -- Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron-1 held its third and final "freeze" week here in preparation for the Weapons and Tactics Instructor course.

For each exercise or course MAWTS-1 holds three freeze weeks; one every month for three months in a row.

WTI is a joint service training exercise held to teach service members the latest tactics in warfighting so they can return to the fleet and train members of their units.

Each year MAWTS-1 performs approximately six freeze weeks, three per WTI, in order to prepare for WTI.

"Our first freeze week for this WTI was Jan. 4-7, our second week was Jan. 31 - Feb. 4 and our final freeze week was Feb. 28 - March 9," said Maj. Brent Reiffer, MAWTS-1 aissistant operations officer.

Each of the three freeze weeks covered different planning phases, added Reiffer.

"The first week is used as initial planning phase," said Reiffer. "During the first week we decide whether or not we will make any new changes or improvements to the training exercise."

During the year's first freeze week, MAWTS-1 had already incorporated a change into the WTI schedule, said Maj. Jim Jenkins, Director of Safety and Standardization, MAWTS-1.

"A new class that will be added to this year's WTI is an aviation safety course," he said. "Last year, the Marine Corps had a bad year aviation mishap wise, and the (commanding officer) looked at it as a way to reinforce safety."

When changes are made, the second phase helps determine if the new change will work, said Reiffer.

"The second week is our mid planning phase," said Reiffer. "This is where we have to make sure all the ideas and coordination gets done. By the end of the second freeze week, that is pretty much the guideline for the training evolution. During the third and final week, we work out any unresolved issues that need to be addressed."

As a part of the freeze week process, MAWTS-1 must make sure all students will have the equipment and augmentation required, added Reiffer.

"For example, if we are going to train four pilots, we will need seven aircraft mechanics to maintain the aircraft, Marines to provide chow, etc.," Reiffer said. "So we have to make sure all the support is provided for, paid for and arrives on time."

On the other side of the preparation, freeze week also means getting all the academic training in place.

”In WTI, we teach over 1,000 classes," said Maj. Eric Austin, MAWTS-1 academics officer. "So during freeze week, we take the instructors and develop and produce all the classes."

During freeze week, the academics department also puts together courseware, he added. "We have to prepare two binders for each of the students that attend the school house for WTI. One is classified and another is unclassified."

In addition to the binders the academic department puts together, their job is to also monitor the instructors.

"Before instructors are able to teach their class, we have what we call a murder-board," said Gunnery Sgt. Dennis Pennington, MAWTS-1 curriculum coordinator. "The instructors have to practice their class in front of the staff members until they feel happy with the class."

"During the freeze weeks, we really don't have time for much," said Austin. "We have to stay focused and stay on task. It also helps to work with this caliber of professionals. It makes everything just that much easier."

MAWTS-1 expects approximately 2,000 service members to come aboard the station to support this year's WTI. WTI is a biannual training exercise geared toward training service members in aviation along with ground combat.

"Because MAWTS-1 is tasked by Marine Corps order to provide fleet support, attend conferences and provide subject matter expert support to other units around the Corps, our instructors are barely ever here," said Reiffer.

"So freeze week is the time that all the instructors come back and stay here," he said. "During that week, we don't do anything else other than preparing for whatever training exercise is coming up next."

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