MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- As the seven-ton-truck came to a halt, Marines hastily jumped out of the back. The M777A2 lightweight howitzer was dug into position and aimed on target within four minutes. Soon the order for suppressive fire came through the radio. In 30 seconds, two 110 pound high explosive rounds were soaring through the air toward their destination.
Marines and Sailors with 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, trained at the Combat Center May, 5-18, in support of I Marine Expeditionary Force’s Exercise Desert Scimitar. Desert Scimitar is a large-scale combined-arms exercise that gives the artillery Marines the opportunity to train alongside other division units and I MEF elements with various capabilities.
“This training is good for practicing in sync with other units,” said Sgt. Byron Perry, an assistant gun chief with 2nd Bn., 11th Marines.
He added that the gun operations do not change at different locations but the Combat Center allows for a greater use of the unit’s capabilities.
The Marines are able to fire as if they were in combat when they train at Twentynine Palms, launching rounds 1,000 meters in front of the maneuvering Marines. However, back home at Camp Pendleton artillery rounds are confined to an area called the safety box.
The smaller size of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton is restrictive for artillery units, limiting how far they can shoot and move, explained 1st Lt. Isaac Williams, the executive officer of Fox Battery. When they come out here they are able to shoot, move and communicate with other units and each other to a greater degree.
Coordinating with other units is a key part to the movement and placement of the weapon system. Artillery battalions work closely to ensure proper support to the infantry companies.
Communication from the battalions to the batteries and then to each individual gun is vital for quick and accurate firing.
Several of Fox Battery’s section-chiefs were relatively new to the unit so this training gave the chiefs an opportunity to learn and lead their Marines. By the end of the exercise, each section was effectively running the Howitzer after numerous fire missions.
“At the end of the two weeks the Marines are definitely tired,” Williams said. “However, we can definitely see an improvement. We see nothing but 0811s (artillerymen) doing their jobs.”
Desert Scimitar prepared the battalion for future deployments and combat scenarios.
“The more we train here the better we get,” stated Perry. “The better we are here the more confident we are down range when we are actually faced with an opposing force.”
Marines are known for training like they fight. Through exercises like Desert Scimitar, Marines demonstrate their ability to be ready at a moment’s notice.