MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Platoon after platoon assaulted the Combat Center’s Range 410A for the first training event of 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment’s Integrated Training Exercise here, Jan. 19.
ITX is a 30-day training evolution that entails a collective training experience to prepare a battalion for the Marine Corps’ current mission, which for 1st Bn., 7th Marines, is their next combat deployment to Afghanistan.
“It’s important to do this platoon attack range because it builds confidence in the squad leaders, platoon leadership and fire team leaders so they can conduct a full scale operation on their own,” said 1st Lt. Brian Wlcek, a platoon commander with Charlie Company, 1st Bn., 7th Marines. “A lot of the time we do company-sized operations where squads and fire teams are just one piece of the pie. During platoon attacks, the squad leaders have a very crucial role and they have to seize their objective because all eyes are on them and everyone is watching.”
The assaulting force consisted of a standard rifle platoon, which is roughly three squads with 12 Marines per squad. An additional two squads were integrated to provide machine gun and mortar fire support while a final squad of assaultmen aided in the attack with a SMAW rocket and breaching equipment.
The attack began with the infantrymen breaching concertina at the start of the range. Mortarmen and machine gunners quickly moved to provide suppressing fire for squads of riflemen to maneuver toward three entrenched enemy positions. Hand grenades and small-arms fire quickly eliminated the hostile targets and the Marines quickly gained control.
“The range was really motivating for me,” said Cpl. Ben McCabe, a fire team leader with Charlie Co. “All of the mortar and machine gun fire going off while we were moving toward our objective made the attack really fun. It’s always motivating running through smoke and not seeing exactly where you are going.”
A critical factor which contributed to each successful platoon attack were the Marines in leadership roles. From the individual platoon commander down to the fire team leaders, each of them were responsible for leading their Marines to mission accomplishment.
“As a team leader my job is to motivate my Marines,” said McCabe, a native of North Canton, Ohio. “Every step during training, and in combat, I have to lead by example. I’m with my Marines running across every creek bed, taking knees with them in the rocks and storming into trenches with them after maneuvering more than a kilometer of rough terrain. I can never show them I am are tired or weak, because if I do they are going to follow by my example.”
Each platoon in Alpha, Bravo and Charlie Co. completed the range over the span of three days which in turn prepared them for their next training event on Range 400. Compared to Range 410A’s platoon-sized attacks, Range 400 consists of company-sized attacks.
“The company attack has a lot of the same elements integrated into it,” said Wlcek, a native of Danville, Calif. “If you screw up during a platoon attack, it only affects your platoon. If things don’t go the way you want during a company attack, then it affects the entire company, so it’s just that much more complicated.”
After learning from each platoons’ successes and mistakes, each company will put their skills to the test during their assaults at Range 400. After the range, the battalion is slated to conduct defensive training exercises. ITX is 1st Bn., 7th Marines final predeployment training evolution before they deploy to Afghanistan.