News: ‘Raining Steel:’ Marines practice close air support tactics
Story by Cpl. Ned Johnson
MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. — In the heat of a gun battle, close air support and artillery can mean the difference between life and death.
These fires need coordination from ground troops to be effective which is where Fire Support Coordination Marines earn their money.
This task is not simple and must be rehearsed before deployments.
Marines with Regimental Combat Team-7, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, HMLA-169 and VMU-231, participated in a Fire Support Coordination Exercise as part of Enhanced Mojave Viper 7-12, July 24.
The exercise involving units across several different commands was designed to prepare the Marines of RCT-7 for their upcoming deployment to Helmand province, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The Marines coordinated fire support with an artillery battery and rotary and fixed wing units.
“There is a whole litany of things that we have to accomplish to stay certified to drop bombs and control close air support,” said Capt. Pete Priester, the Fire Support Officer, RCT-7.
The air officers and pilots are not the only ones this training will help.
“The coordination involved bringing all the firing agencies will make the fire support coordination center that much better for the deployment,” said Priester, a native of Bettendorf, Iowa. “It also helps the joint fires observer with the Personal Security Detail as they prepare to go out there.”
Artillery shelled the desert while helicopters strafed simulated enemy fighters. The Marines also called in simulated hellfire missiles and fixed wing aircraft simulated bombs.
The exercise also included training for Sgt. Shaye Carter, the platoon sergeant and joint fires observer for the Personal Security Detail, RCT-7.
“I am doing my job as JFO so they can do theirs,” Carter said. “There are different types of controls for aircrafts which can include not being able to see their aircraft, so I am their eyes and ears out here.”
The weather was hot and the targets were simulated, but the training carried future consequences.
“If we take contact, I will be able to control surface to surface fires,” Carter said. “I will also be able to communicate with aircraft and get more guns into the fight for my platoon.”