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Marines with 1st Marine Division take part in a Combined Armed Staff Trainer exercise aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Nov. 17, 2015, in preparation for Exercise Steel Knight 2016. The CAST exercise was a division-level evolution, which allowed Marines to maintain designated skillsets in support of a simulated, large-scale operation.(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Demetrius Morgan/RELEASED)

Photo by Cpl. Demetrius Morgan

1st Marine Division conducts CAST exercise

19 Nov 2015 | Cpl. Demetrius Morgan 1st Marine Division

The Marine Corps has made a name for itself as a rapid response force capable of executing a multitude of missions in order to defend the nation. Marines are always ready to be at the forefront of an operation as a result of constant training required by their challenging jobs.

Marines are particularly known for their effective battlefield tactics, but often the planning process and coordination behind the scenes is not highlighted. Proper planning is what allows the Corps’ ground combat elements to accurately and effectively engage enemies and complete missions. 

Personnel with the 1st Marine Division trained in that arena by taking part in a Combined Arms Staff Trainer exercise aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Nov. 17, 2015, in preparation for Exercise Steel Knight 2016.

 “What we have here is a division-level exercise based on a large-scale operation scenario,” said Capt. Brock Lennon, the fire directions officer for 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. “This exercise will prepare us for executing all of our warfighting functions as a division.”

“This exercise allows us at the staff-level to rehearse all the planning so that in real combat everything is smooth,” he added “Simply going off the cuff in a real mission is not the way to go.”

One of the key elements of supporting ground combat elements is indirect fire with artillery and rockets which is used to suppress or eliminate enemy assets. Lennon stated 11th Marines role within the grand scheme is to utilize projectiles to cater to the needs of infantry units.  

“It’s important for us to be good at what we do because a lot of times we can take a projectile and engage an enemy rather than using a grunt or a vehicle to do it,” he said. “We can also use projectiles to provide obscuration, suppressive fire and destruction effects from our mass fires. We basically make the infantry’s job easier as they maneuver through the battlefield.”    

Utilizing indirect fires requires communication Marines to effectively establish communication with both the element being supported and the element providing the artillery support. 1st Lt. Alfredo Arredono, the designated communications officer for the exercise, provided all the sections and the commander with the ability to relay plans and orders to one another. 
“My role as the communicator is to ensure that the commander can command and control his troops,” Arrendono said. “It’s important that I do my role well… we need the communication piece so the commander can control his troops and everyone here has an understanding of what’s going on and what their role is.”   

Intelligence specialists, Marine Air Ground Task Force planners and logistics specialists also provided support for the exercise in order to rehearse their specific procedures. Always being mission capable is the key to the Marine Corps’ success and exercises like this helps Marines sustain unit readiness.  

“No exercise or mission is ever the same,” Arrendono said. “What Marines gain during these exercises is hands-on training with different scenarios and equipment. Once you learn the traits and characteristics of everything going on, a user can come across a problem and troubleshoot it during or even before it happens. It’s a way of ensuring success, making sure everyone can do their job.” 

Training for the expected and unexpected is the division’s top priority as it prepares to operate at full speed during exercise Steel Knight. Steel Knight is an integral training event, which will put Marines in realistic combat situations that will demand high performance from all personnel.

1st Marine Division