News: 1/7 Marines utilize helicopters during live-fire assault
Story by Cpl. Joseph Scanlan
MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. – The low hum of helicopter rotors echoed in the distance across a small town on a sunlit Saturday morning. Within minutes, the town was flooded with infantrymen, their weapons loaded with live ammunition, ready to eliminate any hostile threat in their path to seize the town from enemy forces.
The Marines of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, conducted a two-day air assault course at a combat training facility on Range 210 during their Integrated Training Exercise here, Jan. 25 and 26.
“We had artillery, fixed wing and rotary wing attack our objective until the destruction criteria was met,” said 1st Sgt. Michael Grassl, the company first sergeant. “Once the destruction criteria was met, we brought the infantry company in three separate waves.”
The helicopters flew at a low altitude due to the overhead artillery fire during the flights. The first wave of CH-46 sea knight and CH-53E super sea stallion helicopters brought infantrymen to establish a foothold in the town. Once the second wave of Marines arrived, the company began clearing each building of hostile threats.
The building’s walls in the town are constructed with shock absorbent concrete, allowing the infantrymen to fire live ammunition for more realistic training.
“The aspect of shooting inside houses gave the training a more realistic feel to it because when I enter any compound, I don’t know what to expect from anyone or anything that is in there,” said Lance Cpl. Jesse Mickelson, an automatic rifleman and a native of Okoboji, Iowa. “This range really helped prepare me for what I could encounter during our deployment.”
After seizing the last building and gaining control of the area, the fatigued Marines immediately assumed defensive positions on the south side of the town, anticipating an enemy counter attack in the coming hours.
“I think this is the hardest of any operation where we come in then actually occupy and establish a defense,” said Grassl, a native of Vesper, Wisc. “There is so much that goes into establishing a defense.”
Marines with shovels heaved dirt for several hours to fill sand bags and construct fighting positions. The infantrymen continued to dig throughout the moonlit hours to perfect their positions. Most fighting holes reached nearly five feet deep and were big enough for two Marines with full combat loads. For each fighting hole, fire team leaders and squad leaders developed interlocking sectors of fire and fire plan sketches. The company’s chain of command played a crucial role when they developed proper defensive sectors.
“It goes from the bottom up,” Grassl said. “The fire team leaders assign each Marine in a hole their sectors of fire that interlock. Once each fire team has interlocking fields of fire, the squad leader will check it. Each squad leader then draws a squad fire plan sketch to turn in to the platoon sergeant and platoon commander. With that information a platoon fire plan sketch is developed and that is forwarded up to create a company fire plan sketch.”
The ultimate goal is to ensure that there are no gaps in the defensive plan for the enemy to exploit, Grassl added.
After fighting to clear the town building-by-building and racing to contruct defensive positions for the next several hours, the infantrymen held security from their newly built positions throughout the chilly desert night. They understood the enemy’s attack to retake the town could come at any time.
“They were tired last night, but instead of taking the easy way out, they stuck through it and made sure when they had to bring the fight to the enemy, they had a fight to bring,” Grassl said.
Sunrise marked the notional enemy’s final attack against the company’s defensive positions. The company incorporated a Combined Anti-Armor Team with mounted .50 caliber machine guns and Mk-19 grenade launchers to engage distant targets. When the enemy brought in armored vehicles to overrun the Marines, two javelin missiles were fired to destroy them. When the remaining enemy force continued to advance, machine gun and rifle fire erupted from the prepared fighting holes. Mortar fire hailed down on the enemy force as they slowed through emplaced obstacles ahead of the Marines’ positions.
Once the infantrymen successfully repelled the assault, it was time to move again. The Marines filled in their fighting positions, packed their gear and loaded onto trucks headed for a new assembly area to prepare for their next training exercise. The two-day training event marked the company’s half-way point during its ITX. ITX is a 30-day training evolution to prepare battalions for their upcoming combat deployments. For 1st Bn., 7th Marines, it is their final predeployment training evolution before they deploy to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Date Posted:02.08.2014 22:29
Location:MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, CA, US
Hometown:BRISTOL, VA, US
Hometown:MOHAVE VALLEY, AZ, US
Hometown:NAMPA, ID, US
Hometown:OKOBOJI, IA, US
Hometown:RALEIGH, NC, US
Hometown:SAN FERNANDO, CA, US
Hometown:VESPER, WI, US