Tents emerged throughout the night of Nov. 16, 2015, as the 5th Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, Command Post Exercise began aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Nov. 16-20, 2015.
Beneath the tan and green tents were the busy Marines of 5/11, who were actively working on computers and over maps in preparation for the upcoming 1st Marine Division exercise, Steel Knight 2016. One of the most important steps while preparing for any exercise is to identify potential obstacles or issues and eliminate them in order to more effectively operate during the real exercise.
“We’re working on establishing our communications,” said 1st Lt. Austin Head, a fires direction officer with 5/11. “We’re making sure that any issues we have now, we can run into and fix before we get out to Steel Knight in 29 Palms to at least eliminate a majority of [them].”
The Marines and Sailors with 5/11 spent a week in the field building tents and rehearsed setting up designated gear for Steal Knight. Conducting these essential setup procedures in preparation for the exercise helps the Marines re-familiarize themselves with the high-paced operational tempo that will be required of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System battalion.
“CPX is definitely important to work out all the kinks,” said Cpl. Kevin Belchez, a radio operator with 5/11. “We make sure all of the gear is good by [conducting operational] checks.”
The communication and fire direction control Marines of 5/11 conducted troubleshooting techniques in order to refresh their skills, Head, a Ukiah, Calif. native explained. The communication Marines worked on “filling” the radios, which is the process of inputting frequencies, while the FDC Marines received notional missions to plug into a specialized computer program in order to process the mission.
The Marines of the battalion ultimately trained with a goal of conducting the upcoming division-level exercise as effectively and as seamlessly as possible. Steel Knight will place them in a simulated scenario requiring the Marines from all military occupational specialties in the 1st Mar. Div. to work together to accomplish the mission. 5/11’s role within the exercise requires the Marines to maintain strong communication in order to deliver accurate and effective fire throughout the battle-space.
“We’ll have the practice,” Head said. “…So it’s pretty fresh in our minds.”
Taking control of the troubleshooting portion in the early stages allows the Marines to focus on the main training exercise, he added. The Marines are then free to get more efficient training and send more rockets down range without spending time fixing radios and programming computers.
The CPX also allows senior Marines within the battalion to pass down knowledge to their subordinate Marines before the actual exercise, which will contribute to the fluidity of the operations.
“One of the benefits of the CPX is, if you don’t know something it’s the time to ask questions and figure it out,” explained Belchez.
Once the training exercise is complete, the Marines will proceed to Steel Knight 2016 with a wealth of knowledge, helping them to better support the 1st Mar. Div. during its tough, realistic training.