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A gun grew serving with India Battery, 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, provided preventative maintenance to an M777 Lightweight Howitzer at the 11th Marines gun park here, Aug. 14, 2013. The field artillery Marines prepped the howitzer for the upcoming regimental fire exercise Aug. 19 through 28.

Photo by Sgt. Michael S. Cifuentes

11th Marines prepare for regimental artillery exercise

16 Aug 2013 | Sgt. Michael Cifuentes 1st Marine Division

The 11th Marine Regiment, an artillery regiment comprised of four battalions, is scheduled to flex their muscle in a large-scale, live-fire training exercise here, Aug. 19 through 28.

Camp Pendleton and neighboring cities can expect to hear howitzer fire, rocket fire, and the sound and vibrations of hundreds of 155 mm artillery rounds impacting the training area and echoing through the corridors of neighboring hills and valleys throughout the 10 days.

“The focus is going to be on the fundamentals of artillery training – can we shoot, move and communicate in support of the 1st Marine Division,” said Col. Stephen Liszewski, the commanding officer of 11th Marines.

All four battalions belonging to 11th Marines are scheduled to arrive to the training area Aug. 19 towing their M777 Lightweight Howitzers and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems. More than 1,700 Marines and sailors are involved in the annual training evolution, to include the regiment’s 3rd Battalion, who are traveling from Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif.

A selection of local Marine and Navy units will also provide aviation and logistical support to the firing battalions. Units include squadrons from 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, providing attack helicopters and troop carriers support, unmanned aerial surveillance support from Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 3, beach-landing support from Assault Craft Unit 5, and logistical support from Combat Logistics Regiment 1. 

Leadership from the regiment will stress safety during the course of the exercise, a theme Marines must also sustain while deployed to the battlefield.

The way Marines conduct operations in combat is the same way Marines will conduct firing missions in a training environment, said Sgt. Maj. Mark Arvizu, the sergeant major of 11th Marines.

“We’ve got a great group of Marines here in the 11th Marine Regiment, and they are absolutely professionals. They’re committed to knowing their craft, and they’re committed to practicing their craft in a safe manner,” said Liszewski, a native of Gaithersburg, Md. “As artillerymen, we place a high premium on being able to conduct this training safely.”

Once placed in the training area, forward observers, the eyes and ears of artillerymen who scout the battlefield for enemy targets, will locate training targets inside Camp Pendleton’s impact area. Upon confirming the targets, they’ll radio the targets’ grid coordinates to the firing batteries’ fire direction control center. 

That team then calls the fire mission to the gun line, which typically in a firing battery consists of at least four howitzers with a squad-sized crew of Marines per gun. The FDC provides the crews with an angle at which to aim the howitzers, the number of ammunition per mission, a charge for trajectory and a rate at which to fire the rounds.

Between missions, the Marines will also train in relocating their firing points or displacing, simulating moving from one position on the battlefield to another. 

Although it’s the basic principles of an artillery unit being emphasized, along with safety, this exercise underlines the regiments’ training mission – to shoot, move and communicate effectively.

“Units from our regiment continue to deploy to Afghanistan in support of everything our nation is doing in that part of the world. Before we send Marines to Afghanistan, we have to make sure they’re fully trained and ready to operate in a combat environment,” Liszewski said.

Everything the Marines will do in the training area isn’t something that could be simulated in a classroom, and the skills exercised in the field are perishable, he added. 

“There is no substitute for live-fire training,” Liszewski said. “It’s absolutely essential to really be able to test the system and to train our Marines in what they’re responsible for knowing how to do.”

Bottom line, the training allows the regiment to maintain the level of readiness expected of the Marine Corps by the American people, he said.

“The (American people) are getting what they paid for. They want us to be proficient at our (military occupational specialty), and that’s exactly what we’re going to be doing,” said Arvizu, a native of Phoenix. “We’re making sure that we’re training the Marines in the case that there’s an operation they need to go forward to, they’ll be ready to execute.”

Mayor Jim Wood, the mayor of Oceanside, Calif., said although exercises like these generate a handful of noise complaints, he understands the training and supports it. 

"The training saves lives of so many Marines around the world," he said. "Sometimes, freedom is noisy. We love our Marines, so safety and training is what really counts."
1st Marine Division