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Canadians flock to Yuma's skies

US Marine Corps News

2/17/2011 By Lance Cpl. Laura Cardoso, Marine Corps Air Station Yuma

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. — Exercise Desert Gander launched off station Feb. 1, 2011, marking the final step of predeployment training for approximately 220 members of Canadian military forces.

During the exercise, 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron based with the Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton, Alberta, practiced air-to-ground firing exercises, dust ball training and convoy operations at the ranges surrounding Yuma.

“Dust ball training helps door gunners and pilots learn to deal with dust clouds that form when landing,” said Cpl. Ted McGirr, 408 Squadron flight engineer and right door gunner. “Another aspect to consider is the heat. When it is very hot the air is thin and it makes it difficult to lift off. By conducting these exercises we gain much needed experience.”

The squadron has held their winter training here for the last three years, due to its ideal training environment and optimum facilities.

“The terrain here is very similar to Afghanistan,” said Capt. Bob Hackett, executive officer and adjutant. “The heat and dust, something you don’t find in Canada, help our guys prepare for what we are going to see in our deployment.”

The squadron is slated to deploy to Afghanistan later this spring.

Equipped with CH-146 Griffon helicopters, the squadron’s primary role is to provide aviation support to Canada’s Army and other government departments. Therefore, the training the squadron receives in Yuma is vital, said Hackett.

“We appreciate the hospitality of the Marines on station and the facilities that are readily available here,” added Hackett. “Not having to stay in tents, as was the case before, helps training move quicker and more efficiently.”

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