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1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment infantrymen tactically move from building to building in a simulated combat zone during Exercise Steel Knight 2016 at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Dec. 4, 2015. 1st Marine Division has conducted Steel Knight for the past three years, making this the fourth iteration of the exercise. Steel Knight will test I Marine Expeditionary Force’s amphibious capabilities through realistic, scenario-driven training.

Photo by Sgt. Justin Boling

Marines getting feet wet during opening of Steel Knight 2016

7 Dec 2015 | Sgt. Justin Boling 1st Marine Division

The 1st Marine Division launched Steel Knight by securing beachhead at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California the early morning of Dec. 4, 2015.

Following infiltration and follow-on surveillance conducted by 1st Reconnaissance Battalion Marines, Marines with 1st Bn., 1st Marine Regiment, surged from the amphibious assault vehicles operated by 3rd Assault Amphibian Bn. after their cold trek over the waves of the Pacific Ocean to conduct a notional raid on a small town complete with enemy role players. 

“This was my first Steel Knight,” said Cpl. Dustin Weiss, an amphibious assault vehicle crew chief. “This is a great opportunity to get excellent training going from ship to shore and back again.”

These large floating armored personnel carriers bring Marines from naval vessels to shore to assault targets, provide humanitarian aid or a variety of other missions. Marines have been using these vehicles since 1972. For this iteration of Steel Knight, the USS Somerset provided the amphibious platform from which the Marines could maneuver and assault. 

“This exercise helps you realize how truly important it is to get these Marines to the shore,” Weiss said. “You see the variety of skills we bring to the fight by getting these guys where they need to be.”

This year’s Steel Knight is the fourth iteration of the division’s combined arms, live fire exercise to be executed across multiple locations. The two-week-long exercise offers a variety of training for thousands of Marines and sailors. The exercise also has a significant battlespace, spanning across both Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms and the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California.

“This was my first splash on a AAV, it was a really neat experience to ride in the AAV,” said Sgt. Calvin Davis, a squad leader with a 1st Law Enforcement Bn., I Marine Expeditionary Force, team embedded with 1st Bn., 1st Marines. “This is not my first Steel Knight but it is my first time being integrated with the [infantrymen].”

Davis is a military policeman, whose purpose while working with the battalion is to use his occupational skills to assist with gathering intelligence through the collection of evidence found on the enemy role players. This demonstrates the support the entire Marine Air-Ground Task Force brings to the ground combat element.

As infantrymen and other augments moved through the small town of open-air buildings they engaged enemy role players, identified an improvised explosive device and practiced skills, which may be used anytime the nation calls upon the Blue Diamond’s combat prowess.

“We get to build a lot of skill out here,” Davis said. “We go from splashing on the ocean straight into raiding a town.

“As Marines, we always adapt and overcome, and we actually have chances like this to put our plans to the test and be able to learn to operate on the fly when planning may fall short before we get out in the real world.”

The exercise will continue to challenge Marines and sailors of numerous specialties found throughout 1st Marine Division and across the MAGTF. The skills of these men and women keep the division a multi-role, expeditionary ground combat force designed to meet any challenge the future may hold.

1st Marine Division