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Rocket Battalion rains steel

30 Jul 2009 | Cpl. Shawn Coolman 1st Marine Division

Exercising satellite and high frequency communications assets, 5th Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment is pushing the envelope of modern warfare capabilities further into the 21st century.   

To prepare for future deployments using High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, 5th Bn., 11th Marines conducted a centralized fire direction exercise between geographically dispersed units spanning over more than 150 miles across southern California, July 27-30. Using satellite communications, the battalion worked to further test their ability to command and control precision fires over long distances.

As the only active duty HIMARS artillery battalion in the Marine Corps, 5th Bn., 11th Marines has worked actively with 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, its reserve counterpart, to develop employment doctrine and procedures. Utilizing training areas aboard Camp Pendleton, Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach, Calif., and Camp Elliot, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., the battalion worked to test these procedures.  

Traditional artillery battalions fire 155mm artillery shells from M777 howitzers. The employment of HIMARS on the modern battlefield, however, has significantly increased the range, lethality and precision targeting that Marine artillery can bring to the fight. HIMARS guided unitary rocket delivers a 200-lb high explosive warhead with pinpoint accuracy and low collateral damage.

The use of long-range communications further extends the range of this weapons system.

“You don’t see these types of communications at a battery (satellite and HF). They’re usually used at a much higher level,” said Capt. Brian C. Donnelly, commanding officer, Battery T, 5th Bn., 11th Marines. “Using the capabilities of our long range communications assets, we are able to distribute operations like what you can expect to see in Afghanistan.

“This exercise has been very beneficial for us because we are 50-60 miles away from (Camp Pendleton) and we can talk vocally and digitally for distributed operations,” added Donnelly, 36, from Wilmette, Ill.

Marines with 5th Bn., 11th Marines operated in three separate locations during the first two days of the exercise sending and receiving communications from their battalion command operations center in Camp Pendleton via satellite and HF.

“Communication has always been the short link,” said Master Sgt. Travis D. Edwards, 39, field artillery chief with Battery S, from Santa Clarita, Calif. “This is the first time we have tried the communications this spread out, as the system should be used.”

Being able to spread out further and further has enabled this weapon system to maximize its reach.

“You can talk to headquarters a long way away, which opens up our maneuverability,” said Edwards. “And engage high value targets with minimal collateral damage.”

The culmination of the exercise was a live-fire shoot aboard Camp Pendleton affectively coordinating “Sierra” and “Tango” Batteries from a centralized location utilizing communications to fire HIMARS into a specified impact area.

“This proves we can operate long-range and be decentralized in our operations,” said 2nd Lt. Ben N. Boera, 24, a platoon commander with Battery T, from Tempe, Ariz.

1st Marine Division