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Lance Cpl. Chris McKenzie, 23, from Moore, N.C., serves with Headquarters Platoon, Headquarters and Service Company, Task Force 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, Regimental Combat Team 5.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Joshua Murray

Mortarmen sharpen skills

30 Jun 2008 | Lance Cpl. Joshua Murray 1st Marine Division

Many Marines deployed with Task Force 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, Regimental Combat Team 5 take on more than one duty here. The battalion adapts to constantly changing circumstances and puts Marines to work on matters in which the extra help is needed most.

Upon arriving here in April, mortarmen with Mortar Platoon, Weapons Company, TF 2nd Bn., 2nd Marines were assigned to the battalion’s Quick Reaction Force, where they handle a variety of emergency situations in the battalion’s area of operations. As part the battalion’s QRF, the Marines have not had opportunity to do what they love most, fire mortars.

However, during a fire-support-coordination exercise here June 29, the mortarmen got a chance to get reacquainted with the mortars. Additional Marines from the battalion, as well as sailors, soldiers and Marines from other units also took part in the exercise.

“The main focus here is proficiency training, due to the fact that the majority of Marines here are conducting operations outside of their primary (military occupational specialty),” said Capt. Joseph Barker, 30, from Mascoutah, Ill., and a forward air controller with the battalion.

The Marines placed broken-down vehicles to use as targets near the edge of a hill roughly 3,000 meters from where 81mm mortars were placed. The mortarmen established the gun line and executed offensive mortar attacks to suppress simulated enemy anti-aircraft weapons systems. All the while, Marine aircraft closed in on the enemy, ready to rain down the final destructive blows.

The mortarmen’s last combined-arms training exercise before the FISCEX took place at an exercise called Mojave Viper at Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force Training Center 29 Palms, Calif., in February.  

“We haven’t done this for a very long time,” said Cpl. Anthony McCoy, the squad leader for Gun 2 with the Mortar Platoon. “We are a little out of practice and need to work on our timing, but were doing pretty well.”

Seven forward air controllers watched the mortar attacks from a hill close by and coordinated aircraft movements and attacks. Two sailors from Riverine Squadron 3, Detachment 3, RCT-5 also worked alongside the mortarmen during the exercise.

“In [Iraq], we don’t get the chance to [drop ordnance] very often,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Josh Medeiros, an expeditionary warfare specialist with Riverine Squadron 3. “It’s good to see how everyone else does business out here.”

The exercise lasted the entire day, and everyone involved headed back to base that night. Marines with Mortar Platoon put their skills to the test and trained to better execute their original MOS duties. 

“Operation Iraqi Freedom deployments don’t always provide the opportunity to do MOS proficiency training,” said Barker. “The training was successful. Any proficiency training is a benefit.”


1st Marine Division