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Landing support Marines, with Combat Logistics Battalion 13, 1st Marine Division do an external lift of the M777A2 lightweight howitzer with an MV-22 Osprey, in support of the summer firing exercise, August 21, 2014, aboard Camp Pendleton, California. The 11th Marines conducted an eight-day firing exercise where they maneuvered and fired upon multiple ranges. For two days, the Marines trained for internal embarkation of the 120 mm mortar and the external lift of the howitzer. (USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Ashton C. Buckingham)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Ashton Buckingham

'Cannon Cockers' Practice force projection

28 Aug 2014 | Lance Cpl. Ashton Buckingham

 Marines crouched next to a howitzer bracing themselves for hurricane-force winds and a cloud of debris to envelop their area as an Osprey moved into position overhead. Landing support Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 13 who supported the 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, were in a constant whirlwind of sand and dirt as they hooked the howitzer during an external lift training event.

11th Marines conducted an eight-day live fire exercise where they maneuvered and fired on multiple ranges with the M777A2 lightweight howitzer. For a portion of the exercise the Marines trained for internal embarkation of the 120 mm mortar and the external lift of the howitzer, demonstrating the ability to quickly reposition and employ massive amounts of fire power emphasizing expeditionary projection of force, Aug. 21-22, 2014, aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif.

“This allows the artillery chiefs and gun crews to practice embarking on a MV-22,” said Sgt. Robert Morgan, an instructor at the artillery training school. “It shows them the capabilities and the manipulation of the weapon in certain instances. The artillery Marines who primarily fire the weapon get the feel for moving in, strapping down, settling in and then moving out.”
On the second day the Marines practiced an external lift of a 9,300 pound howitzer with an MV-22 Osprey. This provided a very rare chance for the Marines to work with the howitzer in a scenario other than live fire.

“We don’t get the opportunity to lift a Howitzer very often, let alone with an Osprey,” said Staff Sgt Dominic Chavez, the staff advisor from CLB-13.

 Chavez said the howitzer is a powerful piece of equipment that has a very important role on the battlefield and that training to transport it in this way exponentially increases our expeditionary effectiveness.

From time to time Marines get the chance to work with simulated aircraft, said Chavez. Even though simulation serves a purpose, you can’t beat hands-on training with actual aircraft. It puts a little more pressure on the Marines and a better representation of a real-world scenario.  

The training gives them a chance at operating their weapon systems and demonstrates the unit’s capabilities and the advantages they offer their commander.

 “This concept of maneuver and fire is a simple capability but very vital to units such as the infantry,” said Sgt. Morgan.  “With this, units are able to carry fire support almost anywhere they go.”

While providing fire support, these weapons can also provide counter battery support, explained Col. Christopher A. Tavuchis, commanding officer of the 11th Marines. A mortar team or howitzer team can quickly be placed at any location to fire at an enemy and be moved just as fast. This baits an enemy battery to fire on that location.  Then the Marines are able to triangulate the enemy battery position and eliminate it.
Tavuchis, who has been in the artillery field since 1992, expressed how important and widely dispersed the 11th Marines are. 

“What we are doing here is providing additional capability to what Marines do all over the world”, said Tavuchis. “As ‘the sun doesn’t set on the 1st Marine Division,’ the same can be said about the 11th Marine regiment.”