MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Artillery Marines are not often observed at the forefront of battle, but they are undeniably heard from far away. With the equipment they man, they inspire fear in the enemy through their superior firepower, playing a vital role in the calamity of war. Requiring multiple jumps, precise coordinates and timely fire, artillery Marines train hours upon hours to better support their fellow brethren and to ensure the odds are in their favor.
Marines with 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, provide artillery support in participation of Exercise Steel Knight 2014, Dec. 9 through 16. Steel Knight is a large-scale, live fire exercise that includes all elements of the Marine air ground task force, ensuring I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) is fully prepared for employment to any crisis across the globe.
It hasn’t been a traditional exercise, but it has them working harder all together as a unit, said First Lt. Samuel D. Dumlap, executive officer of Bravo Battery 1st Bn., 11th Marines.
“Steel Knight is a I MEF exercise that incorporates the entire Marine air ground task force,” he said. “It’s an exercise that’s getting everyone involved across the board. We have Marines here at Camp Pendleton pushing all the way up to Twentynine Palms, supporting 1st Marines with direct fire support and live fire missions.”
Steel Knight has his unit working in unison with many others, making it more effective and realistic said Dumlap.
“With a big exercise like this, you have support from across the division and I MEF, we have to coordinate multiple pieces, giving us the total package rather than us doing our own thing,” he said. “The smaller things we do is just internal, us shooting at impact areas. There is really no bigger picture, and no other players involved. It’s just computing and shooting the data.”
The focus of a large-scale exercise like Steel Knight is to fully prepare Marines for deployment across a full spectrum of conflict. The best way of doing this is integrating the infantry force with mechanized artillery and air operations.
Regardless of the bigger picture, the job of 1st Bn., 11th Marines, is still the same. However, even they see the importance of large-scale training like Steel Knight.
“We’re shooting artillery, sending rounds down range in support of the different units participating in Exercise Steel Knight,” said Cpl. Jeffrey T. Garrard, recorder for Bravo Battery. “We’ve got a whole bunch of moving parts, multiple batteries and lots of Marines out here. The hardest part is coordinating where everyone is going.”
Garrard, a native of Townsend, Mont., said with an exercise like Steel Knight, their workload varies from day to day.
“Sometimes we shoot more than 100 rounds a day and sometimes we shoot less than ten,” he said. “It all depends on how hard they want the ground to shake that day.”
Though the gunline may be unseen by most of I MEF, their hard work didn’t go unnoticed by their command.
“The best thing for me is seeing the Marines at the gun line and how hard they work,” said Dumlap. “After seven days in the field even I get exhausted, but they are the ones who are putting in the most work. They have handled themselves very well and worked extremely hard all week.”
Exercise Steel Knight 2014 wraps up for 1st Bn., 11th Marines, Dec. 15. After a tough week of training, the Marines are looking forward to enjoying the holidays, spending time with their friends and families over their well-earned Christmas liberty.
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