MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- The 11th Marine Regiment conducted an annual, live-fire training evolution, dubbed Summer Fire Exercise, that shook Camp Pendleton, Aug. 19 through 28.
The focus of the training was on artillery fundamentals, said Col. Stephen Liszewski, the commanding officer of 11th Marine Regiment. The exercise gave the Marines an opportunity to fire their weapons systems in the same manner they would in a combat situation.
“We’ll practice as we would in a combat environment, so we can shoot, move and communicate in support of the 1st Marine Division,” Liszewski said.
Shoot, move and communicate is the essence of what artillery does, said Lt. Col. Teague Pastel, the commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 11th Marines, who commanded more than 12 howitzers during the exercise.
“As far as communicating goes, if we can’t talk to people, we are worthless out there on the battlefield,” said Pastel, a native of Ithaca, N.Y. “Because of the distance we are from the target area, we don’t have a direct line of sight to where we’re trying to shoot. We have to rely on communications with other organizations in order to hit the targets that we need to.”
The weapon systems used during the training were the M777 Lightweight Howitzer, common to the regiment’s 1st, 2nd and 3rd battalions, and the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, fired by 5th Battalion, 11th Marines.
Artillery is important to the Marine Corps, because of the support it gives to infantry as they establish their position on the front lines, said Sgt. Maj. Mark Arvizu, the sergeant major of 11th Marines.
“It gives you the ability to get that stand off distance as units are maneuvering forward,” said Arvizu, a native of Phoenix.
Although howitzer batteries began transitioning out of Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, leadership at 11th Marines continue to stress the importance of being combat-ready at all times.
“This training is important to the 11th Marine Regiment. First because we remain a nation at war, and units from the 11th Marine Regiment continue to deploy to Afghanistan in support of everything our nation is doing in that part of the world,” Liszewski said.
He said the training allows a level of readiness that is expected of Marines by the American people.
“We know that the American people expect the Marine Corps to be ready on short notice to deploy and handle a crisis or contingency anywhere in the world,” Liszewski said. “We can only achieve that readiness with a consistent training schedule.”
Cannon and rocket fire were the main focus of the training exercise, but Marines with different military occupational specialties participated in practicing their craft to support the large scale exercise. There were more than 1,700 Marines and sailors in the field in support of Summer FireEx, Lisweski said.
“It’s not only for the artillery aspect of it, every MOS was exercised during this training,” Arvizu said.
Although it’s hard work and time-consuming, the Marines said they are proud to be a part of the Cannon Cockers, the nickname of the regiment.
“These Marines are dedicated to their craft, dedicated to their trade and they look forward to getting out there and training,” Liszewski said.