News: Most decorated infantry battalion prepares for next deployment
Story by Cpl. Joseph Scanlan
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Mortar and machine gun fire echoed across Range 800 here as riflemen sprinted through the dust-filled air to conquer every enemy position in their path.
Before the live-fire training kicked off Aug. 12, the Marines of Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, formed a plan.
The Marines studied a terrain model of their area of operation, schemed an attack and executed platoon attacks on objectives on the training range Aug. 14.
A barrage of rounds impacted targets and were aided by explosions from combined anti-armor team, mortar and machine gun support.
Despite some Marines carrying multiple weapon systems and bearing up to 80 pounds of ammunition in their packs over a course of nearly two kilometers, the Marines all worked as a team to successfully breach an enemy barrier, clear three trenches and seize multiple bunkers.
“If you’re a civilian watching us move on the range, it could just look like a bunch of guys running around everywhere while screaming at each other,” said Sgt. Travis Barnes, a squad leader serving with Echo Co. and native of Quincy, Calif. “We call what we do organized chaos.”
After the battalion’s last deployment to Afghanistan, many of Echo Company’s senior Marines were replaced by junior Marines who haven’t deployed to a combat zone.
“We started six months ago with probably 75 percent of the Marines coming straight out of the School of Infantry and in just six months we’ve come an incredible way,” said 2nd Lt. Kyle King, a platoon commander serving with Echo Co. “They are warriors now. One thing we’ve constantly worked on is our individual actions. Whether it’s holding security for one another or tossing a fellow Marine a loaded magazine if they are out of ammunition, they do these things now without hardly having to think about it.”
One of the major factors that contributes to the company’s success is its small unit leaders.
“The squad leaders we have are really our backbone,” said King, a native of Long Beach, Calif. “As a platoon commander, I can’t push around an entire squad or control team leaders. The squad leaders are who we heavily rely on to get our missions accomplished. No matter what mission I’ve given them, I don’t have to micromanage them because they always figure out a way to get it done.”
The Marines of Echo Company have had a tight training schedule for the past six months, testing the Marines for anything they may encounter on a deployment. The live-fire training on Range 800 is one of their last major training exercises before they deploy in support of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.
The 31st MEU is America’s expeditionary force-in-readiness in the Asia-Pacific region. The MEU is capable of conducting limited contingency operations, amphibious operations and crisis response.
“We always train the Marines toward combat situations,” King said. “In the end, the Marines can always default back to helping people like handing out meals. But we can’t teach them on the spot how to conduct ambushes and perform live-fire platoon reinforced attacks.”
After completing day and night assaults on Range 800 here, the company is slated to continue training on live-fire ranges before continuing their legacy as the most decorated infantry battalion in the Marine Corps.