News: Juggernaut: CLB-6 unleashes combined-arms fury at Twentynine Palms
Story by Cpl. Paul Peterson
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - “Tomahawk Two, this is India, message to observer,” reported the artillery radio operator as a convoy of Marines with Transportation Support Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 6, snaked its way through a mountain pass here. “Two rounds, target number Alpha Lima Three Two One Six … Time of flight, One Six … Charge, Three Hotels.”
“Shot out!” called the observer from a nearby hill, moments before high-explosive artillery rounds boomed from 155 millimeter howitzers stationed in a clearing behind the convoy.
The rounds ripped the soil and mushroomed into orange balls of fire before filling the air with smoke, obscuring once mighty tanks that now served as targets for servicemembers firing from the convoy.
The efforts of more than a month of integrated training came to a head for CLB-6, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., as four platoons of Marines completed their final live-fire exercise, May 30–31.
For nearly three hours, each convoy battled its way through twisting ravines and simulated ambushes during the two-day training event.
“This is supposed to be the culminating event for all of it,” said 1st Lt. Christine Calderon, a Diamond Bar, Calif., native and platoon commander with the company. “The platoon has definitely improved from everything we have done. It’s definitely a good learning experience and a great live fire exercise.”
Distant ambushes ignited responses of machinegun fire mixed with the concussive report of artillery, antitank rockets, fighter aircraft, and helicopter gunships from the Marines.
The convoys pressed on.
“Suppress the enemy with accurate fire,” said Lance Cpl. Lucas, J. Banning, a Chesterfield, Mich., native and turret gunner with the battalion. “You really get a good feel for what you’re supposed to do, the moving parts, and how it’s all supposed to come together. It’s not just your own [vehicle], but as a whole convoy.”
IED strikes added to the din of battle in the pass.
More than 30 days of training coalesced as Marines rallied recovery teams for simulated casualty evacuations.
The experience is an assault of the senses and a fatal last glimpse of Marine air-ground combat tactics for would-be recipients.
The smell of burning sulfur intermingled with engine exhaust as armored-vehicle drivers teamed up with their gunners to destroy every moment of silence.
“Basically, I’m trying to yell as loud as I can over the radio to somebody, and then yelling back to my [radio operator] in the vehicle to switch me over to air so I can talk to the pilots coming,” said Calderon. “Everybody wants to know what’s happening or why you halted. You have to paint the picture for everybody. It’s a lot of [communication].”
The intentional chaos of the scenarios tested the Marines on lessons learned during their deployment work-up conducted at their Integrated Training Exercise. Silence finally returned to the desert as the convoys halted near the base of the air controller’s observation hill.