CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- The Marine Corps frequently trains Marines to hone unit capabilities and individual skill sets in order maintain its role as the nation’s rapid response force. From Aug. 6-17, Marines with 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, conducted Summer Fire Exercise 15 (SUMMER FIREX 15) to sustain core proficiencies and further develop their ability to execute fire missions.
Fire support requires the use of coordinating teams and indirect fires and is a critical combat tactic used in the Marine Corps. During the exercise, Marines focused on their ability to coordinate artillery fires in support of large-scale combat operations and ultimately advance their role as invaluable assets for future missions.
“The purpose for FIREX is to quantify standing operating procedures and participate in live-fire training,” said Master Sgt. Greg Whaley, the assistant 1st Marine Division fires chief, operating out of the Fire Control Center. “The best way to train is to use live-fire ... to better prepare for operations.”
Along with the training events, this exercise was used to test the new 155 mm training projectile, the M1122, a less expensive, more realistic and safer training round. It was the first time a Marine Corps unit has tested the concrete filled training round, making this a significant event for not only 11th Marines, but for the Marine Corps.
Marines at all levels understand the importance of this training, including Sgt. Gabriel Osorio, an artillery section chief with Battery B, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.
“We do exercises like this to knock the rust off and keep us engaged,” said Osorio. “Being artillery is like riding a bike. Once you learn the basic procedures you can go so long without shooting them because they are pretty straight forward, but we do it so that, when we get the call, we are ready.”
One of the key elements to any successful operation is the coordination process, oftentimes known as command and control (C2). During the exercise, Marines conducted C2, which requires them to synchronize events from physically different locations. Whaley said the coordination process is a challenge and that the exercise serves as a way to familiarize Marines with difficult circumstances.
“From the Forward Control Center, we have a wide range of assets we have to coordinate and de-conflict,” said Whaley. “It’s one of the most important steps when conducting fire missions because, if we are off by just a little bit, it can jeopardize a lot of people’s lives. This exercise gives us the chance to see how difficult things can get and see if we can handle it.”
Private First Class Chase Lowe, a radio operator with Battery B, 2/11 also realized the difficulty of communicating with adjacent units over a wide-spread area.
“With everything going on around you and still having to relay the right messages is tough,” said Lowe. “If I mess up and tell them something wrong, then the gunline could end up firing at something they’re not supposed to, like friendlies. This is good practice for me so I don’t ever make that mistake.”
Marines will continue to train as they fight in order to maintain a high level of mission readiness and build upon group and individual skill sets.