News: Marines support airfield seizure during Exercise Steel Knight 2014
Story by Lance Cpl. Jonathan Boynes
MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Three CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters landed disappearing into dark dust clouds on either side of a long stretch of desert road. Moments later, the outlines of dozens of Marines moved quickly through the swirling cloud, shouting commands as they maintained organization through the blinding chaos. After a few minutes the helicopters ascended and flew off into the distance as the Marines began setting up defensive positions.
Marines with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, conducted the helicopter raid in support of Exercise Steel Knight 2014 here, Dec. 11th. The raid simulated the seizure of an airfield and gave Marines realistic and dynamic training to prepare them for future deployments.
“Once we landed, both waves of Marines began to set up blocking positions north and south of our position,” said Cpl. Erik Sherman, a squad leader with Alpha Company, 1st Bn., 5th Marines. “These blocking positions were set up in support of the seizure of the airfield.”
Throughout the raid, Marines faced the challenges of the rugged terrain. Rocks and potholes riddled the vast environment forcing the Marines to take extra precautions when moving with their cumbersome combat load.
Working in a difficult environment like the desert exposes the strengths and the weaknesses of a unit, making the Marines more adaptable and combat ready, Sherman said. Also all of the challenges and insight that Steel Knight offers Marines makes for a better and more adaptable fighting force.
“It’s all important stuff,” said Sherman, a native of San Antonio. “It’s good to train in places other than what we call home. The challenge with these environments helped work out the kinks and created a well-greased fighting unit.”
Another challenge Marines overcame was working with unfamiliar equipment and effectively employing newly learned tactics and strategies in a training environment.
“I think we get a lot of different expeditionary training with exercises like Steel Knight,” Sherman said. “A few members of my squad had never been on a helicopter, seized an airfield or anything of that sort. A lot of this training was new for them, and I think that it was important for them to receive it before they do any sort of overseas deployment.”
Steel Knight also gave many Marines a chance to see their efforts on a larger, more sophisticated scale. The exercise allowed them to see where they fall in the big picture and how their individual efforts helped achieve a larger objective.
“For a lot of these guys it was an eye opener,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Chesslock, a platoon sergeant with Alpha Company, 1st Bn., 5th Marines. “They saw the big picture and not just on a platoon or company level. They got to see all of the moving parts that went into a full-scale attack.”
Steel Knight’s realistic training in harsh and diverse environments challenged the Marines from all angles and put them in unfamiliar situations. The exercise gave the Marines of 1st Bn., 5th Marines, a different perspective on the operations they conduct and better prepared them for future operations.