News Icon

News: Forward Observers: The eyes of indirect fire support

Story by Lance Cpl. Corey DabneySmall RSS IconSubscriptions Icon

Forward Observers: The eyes of indirect fire support Cpl. Corey Dabney

Lance Cpl. Luis Herrera and Lance Cpl. Kevin Rhodes, forward observers serving with 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, observe key features in the terrain before conducting a training and readiness examination during a live-fire exercise here, April 3, 2013. Rhodes, a 20-year-old native of Quincy, Mass., and Herrera, a 23-year-old-native of Chino, Calif., are training to deploy with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – In the hills of Camp Pendleton, mortars zip across the sky and slam into their targets, shaking the ground around them. Atop a hill about seven miles from the action in a completely concealed position is a 10-man team of Marine forward observers.

As the Marines of Echo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, conduct their pre-deployment training, the battalion’s forward observers exercise their skills in accurately guiding indirect fire onto enemy targets.

“A forward observer is a school-trained artilleryman who has the abilities to call for and direct artillery fire on enemy targets,” said 1st Lt. Nicholas Wagner, a liaison officer serving with 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment.

The forward observers may not be the Marines firing the weapon systems, but their job is just as crucial to the success of their unit. They serve as the eyes of the artillery, accurately plotting coordinates so their fellow Marines can quickly engage enemy targets.

“We are the eyes of artillery,” said Sgt. Nicholas Bowling, the forward observers section chief serving with 2nd Bn., 11th Marines. “We call in the firing missions enabling the gun line to accurately hit their targets.”

In order for the forward observers to locate the enemy’s position, they must conceal themselves from the enemy.

“In conventional warfare, concealing yourself from the enemy is a very important part of being a forward observer,” said Wagner, a 31-year-old native of Adams, Wis. “You want to make it as hard as possible for the enemy to see you.”

Wagner said forward observers were embedded with the infantry during their recent deployment to Afghanistan.

“In the type of war we are fighting in Afghanistan we were on the ground with foot patrols calling for artillery support near our own position,” said Wagner.

From the backs of mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles, the forward observers would plot coordinates, call in fire missions, and engage hostile targets, Wagner added.

“You have to be smart, decisive and have the ability to improvise,” said Bowling, a native of Temple, Texas. “Since it’s such as small group of Marines in a forward observer team, you have to be able to perform everyone’s basic duties.”

As the explosive sounds of artillery fire began to die down, the Marines completed the last of their pre-deployment. The artillerymen of Echo Battery will soon join the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and make final preparations for deployment in the coming weeks.

Editor’s note: The 31st MEU provides a forward-deployed, flexible sea-based Marine Air Ground Task Force capable of conducting amphibious operations, crisis response in the Asia-Pacific area.

Connected Media
ImagesForward Observers:...
Lance Cpl. Luis Herrera, a forward observer serving with...
ImagesForward Observers:...
Lance Cpl. Luis Herrera, a forward observer serving with...
ImagesForward Observers:...
Lance Cpl. Luis Herrera, a forward observer serving with...
ImagesForward Observers:...
Corporal David Lutz, a radio operator serving with 2nd...
ImagesForward Observers:...
Lance Cpl. Kevin Rhodes (left) and Lance Cpl. Luis...
ImagesForward Observers:...
First Lieutenant Nicholas Wagner, a liaison officer...
ImagesForward Observers:...
Lance Cpl. Luis Herrera and Lance Cpl. Kevin Rhodes,...
ImagesForward Observers:...
Lance Cpl. Luis Herrera, a forward observer serving with...
ImagesForward Observers:...
Lance Cpl. William Jordan, a forward observer serving...

Web Views

Podcast Hits

Public Domain Mark
This work, Forward Observers: The eyes of indirect fire support, by Cpl Corey Dabney, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.

Date Taken:04.11.2013

Date Posted:04.11.2013 23:59


Hometown:ADAMS, WI, US

Hometown:TEMPLE, TX, US

More Like This

  • While indirect fire support from artillery, mortars, naval gunfire or aircraft can significantly shape the battlefield, the power of their effectiveness often lies in the hands of Marine artillery scout observers and forward observers.
  • Marines and sailors of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) are cycling through the Predeployment Training Program aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., before heading to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom early next year.
  • Cpl. Delfino Martinez, joint forces observer, Fire Support Team, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), stepped onto the yellow footprints at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in May 2007.
  • The Marines of Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division concluded a five-day training exercise here, May 10. 

During Desert Fire Exercise, the support elements of the Division established a forward operating base with supply lines, a field mess, communications, an entry control point and a command operations center. The effort required a large convoy of dozens of vehicles to drive from Camp Pendleton to Twentynine Palms, hauling storage boxes, a forklift, and supplies to the training site.


  • Army
  • Marines
  • Navy
  • Air Force
  • Coast Guard
  • National Guard




  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Youtube
  • Flickr