FORT A.P. HILL, Va. - The art and science of combined arms operations is to present the enemy with an inescapable dilemma, to make him choose between movement while under precise and constant fire or wait for their destruction to come from above. The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit Marines employed this science during several exercises at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., during their Realistic Urban Training.
More than 600 Battalion Landing Team 3/8 Marines negotiated squad and company live-fire battle courses, June 6-11, which required them to move over uneven terrain, to secure target areas and conduct urban warfare. During these events, the Marines often utilized air power from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 266 and indirect fire support from 81mm mortars. The combined use of direct and indirect fires against an enemy force is the very definition of combined arms.
One of the major factors in the training exercises was coordination with other elements of the MEU to practice combined arms attacks, said Sgt. Brett A. Dayton, a squad leader with Company K, BLT 3/8, 26th MEU.
"Combined arms involves combining the ground element and air element," said Dayton. "An example of combined arms is when performing an attack, your aviation asset flies-in, attacks from the air, indirect fire provides suppression from afar, and both allow us to go in and take our objective."
Marines employed a broad set of weapons during the training. Small arms included M16 and M4 service rifles, M249 Squad Automatic Weapons, M240B machine guns, mortars, and rockets such as AT-4s and Shoulder-launched Multi-purpose Assault Weapons.
"Employing a wide array of weaponry allows us the flexibility to conduct all types of operations," said 1st Lt. Daniel M. Yurkovich, assistant operations officer for BLT 3/8. MV-22 Osprey, UH-1E Huey, CH-53E Super Stallion, and AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters from VMM-266 provided air support.
"Bringing all elements to a combined arms effort brings the MEU commander the ability to put the enemy within the horns of the dilemma," said Yurkovich. He explained that within a Marine Air Ground Task Force like 26th MEU, the combined arms concept is scalable to meet a range of combat situations. "We can perform anything from squad-sized to battalion-sized attacks," he said.
Dayton said the Marines' responsibilities to the MEU require they train to conduct the full spectrum of military operations, from combat to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
"We support the MEU by conducting raids, ground attacks, humanitarian services and training foreign forces," said Dayton. "During RUT, we can go out there, test our abilities, and tweak things here and there, so we can be effective in real-life combat situations."
With more MEU-wide training exercises planned for July and August, Dayton added his and all BLT 3/8 Marines are well on their way to being fully prepared for their deployment later this year.
"We have come a long way since we first started training for deployment," said Dayton. "We will be more than ready when it comes time to deploy. We have a lot of seasoned leaders out here who have a lot of knowledge and are passing it on to their Marines."