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Marines from Battery M, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment fire an M777 howitzer during a training exercise aboard Camp Fallujah, Iraq, April 19. Marines from the battery are supporting a myriad of roles during their deployment with Regimental Combat Team 1 including personal security detachments and explosive ordnance disposal security teams. (Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt Nathaniel C. LeBlanc)

Photo by Sgt. Nathaniel C. LeBlanc

Arty Marines, Always Flexible

15 May 2008 | Cpl Nicholas J. Lienemann 1st Marine Division

Semper Flexibils or Always Flexible; not only is it the motto of 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, but it’s become a way of life for the Marines of Battery M, 3rd Bat., 11th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 1, serving in al-Anbar Province, Iraq.

Battery M is an artillery unit primarily trained to provide fire support using long range cannons, but for this deployment, they’re filling a myriad of jobs.

“We have four platoons split up across RCT-1’s area of operations,” said 1st Lt. Christopher G. Lease, the executive officer for Battery M. “We’re serving as (explosive ordnance disposal) security teams and personal security detachment teams, as well as still providing two separate fire support units. We’re definitely proving our flexibility.”

Deploying to Iraq is a prime example of the Marine Corps’ flexibility. Designed to be an expeditionary amphibious fighting force, the Corps has been engaged in a nearly land-locked country for the last five years causing some Marines to adapt and overcome a new set of challenges.

Lease admits while the Marines are proving their ability to “accomplish non-traditional jobs” daily, there was a steep learning curve upon the battery’s arrival and a quick familiarization to new systems, which has been the key to their success.

 “We’re definitely supporting a different type of mission over here and some of the equipment we’re using we hadn’t even seen until we actually got out here,” said the 29 year-old from El Paso, Texas. “But the Marines are eager to learn and have excelled on new equipment like radios and the (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles).”          

The battery’s personal security detachment is tasked with escorting unit leaders and VIP’s all around the Anbar Province while providing dismounted security once at the site. The EOD security teams provide both transport and security allowing EOD teams to safely clear areas of explosive threats.

“It’s really more of an infantry-type roll we’re filling with foot patrols and providing convoy security,” Lease said.

Security and stability has drastically improved in the Anbar Province since local sheiks and tribal leaders joined up with coalition forces during the “Anbar Awakening,” back in July of ’06. With the area not as kinetic, there is less need for heavy artillery.

“But don’t let that fool you,” Lease said. “Any of these guys can still jump on their guns and rain down shells at the flip of a switch,”

1st Marine Division