News: Fueled by firepower: 3/3 India Marines perform company attack to prepare for Afghanistan deployment
Story by Cpl. Reece Lodder
MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. — Tucked behind a rocky mountainside, a company of Marines spread out by platoons along its base. After a countdown, an explosion growled beyond the thick shield of rocks. As vibrations coursed through the ground, the infantrymen rushed through a breached concertina wire obstacle to begin their assault.
Marines with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, performed a company live-fire attack at Range 400 on Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., Sept. 10, 2011.
The attack, carried out by each of 3/3’s line companies, was part of the Enhanced Mojave Viper training exercise. During EMV, the Marines of “America’s Battalion” are working from squad-level training evolutions to battalion-level counterinsurgency operations. They’re training for a fall deployment to Afghanistan’s Helmand province in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“This range brought all our moving parts together,” Lance Cpl. Chad Winchell, a squad leader with India Company, 3/3, said. “It meshed our individual actions together at the company level.”
Six teams of machine gunners separated from the attacking horde and hurried up a hill to provide fire support over the battlefield. Simulated enemy artillery and mortar strikes exploded nearby. From their elevated position, a fire support team coordinated the company’s suppression on enemy targets. Communicating by radio, they controlled fire support for the ground forces, from the machine guns to 60mm and 81mm mortars on the ground.
First Lt. Aaron Davidson, an artillery forward observer with 3/3, said the FST provided the maneuver commander a view over the battlefield.
“Our job was to war-game every angle as the company attacked,” Davidson, 24, from Union, Mich., said. “We worked to support their maneuver by controlling the rates of fire, and adjusting our fire suppression on the fly.”
Ammunition men responded to the machine gunners’ commands for re-supply by scurrying through white smoke with ammo cans atop the hill. They trekked down and back up the hill loaded down by brass when their store depleted.
Supported by the hail of fire, platoons comprised of infantrymen, engineers and military working dog handlers moved through a ravine masked by rocky terrain. Mixing attachments into the platoons allowed them to learn each other’s jobs — essential knowledge if demanded by a situation in Afghanistan.
“If myself or any of our other Marines go down, the other Marines need to be able to step into their jobs and still fulfill the mission,” Lance Cpl. Marcus Caldwell, a squad leader with India Company, 3/3, said.
As they maneuvered, snipers, mortarmen and machine gunners pounded rounds onto the enemy positions. Finally, the attacking forces arrived at the enemy strongholds and worked through clearing their three objectives.
The 23-year-old Caldwell, from Atlanta, said navigating through the range helped him understand his squad’s mission within the company. He said it also taught an important lesson to his new Marines.
When some of them thought the attack was over, they faced an unexpected enemy counterattack.
“Once we got to our final objective, our job wasn’t done,” Caldwell said. “In country, our battle begins as soon as we step out of the wire. Today taught them it’s never over until we’re back inside.”
This work, Fueled by firepower: 3/3 India Marines perform company attack to prepare for Afghanistan deployment, by Sgt Reece Lodder, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.