The opening fires of the 1st Marine Division’s Exercise Steel Knight commenced at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. Dec. 10, 2015 with shouts of artillerymen, the yank of a chord and the satisfying decimation of targets.
“We are shooting in support of [1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion and 1st Tank Battalion],” said Sgt. Kenyum Scott, an artillerymen with Battery I, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment. “We would normally be out here shooting by ourselves; now we are shooting for other Marines to advance on to their objectives.”
The two-week-long exercise allows units, like the battery, to work alongside thousands of Marines and sailors of different occupations to reinforce the Marine Air Ground Task Force concept and instill confidence in the units’ ability to work in a combined arms effort.
“After we finish with this shoot, we have one movement day to get our next location,” said Cpl. Levin Jolley, artilleryman with the unit. “Then we set up and wait for call for fires.”
Teams of Marines with the battery manned their M777 Howitzers to engage targets to allow other units of 1st Marine Division to begin their movement toward one of their assault objectives.
“Operating the guns can present some obstacles,” said Cpl. Levin Jolley, an artilleryman with Battery I. “Sometimes it can be difficult to set the gun deflection. We overcame this by pumping up the gun to that direction.”
The exercise is designed to challenge Marines and sailors from numerous occupational fields found throughout the 1st Marine Division. The skills of these men and women keep the division a multi-role, expeditionary ground combat force ready to answer the call whenever or wherever it may be.
“Maintenance and keeping up the guns can be an obstacle when maintaining fires,” Scott said. “You have to find out what is wrong and fix it or trouble shoot to get it firing again.”
The battery will continue to support the infantrymen, tank operators and other Marines advancing to the final objective of Exercise Steel Knight.