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    3rd Battalion, 11th Marines Regiment maintain umbrella of security

    3rd Battalion, 11th Marines Regiment maintain umbrella of security

    Photo By Sgt. Scott Whittington | Cpl. Joseph R. Franklin, 22, radar operator, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marines and Klamath,...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. Scott Whittington 

    Regimental Combat Team 3

    HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan — When enemy insurgents fire mortars or rockets at U.S. and coalition troops, a long beep resonates and a small blip appears on the screen of counter battery radar Marines.

    That beep and blip can start a fire mission for the Marines of 3rd Battalion, 11th Marines Regiment.

    Marines like Sgt. Calvin R. Wauchope, a radar team leader, monitor the sky using the AN/TPQ-36 radar, a system that can ascertain the location of a round's impact and origin before it even hits. The Westport, Conn., native has a team of eight Marines working 24-hour shifts and closely monitoring the radar, which can see up to 24 kilometers. The radar mostly covers troops in the open, convoys and bases.

    If the machine goes down, radar technicians go to work to get it up and running. The radar operators and technicians live less than 20 feet from their equipment to facilitate quick responses and troubleshooting.

    "It's exciting knowing we track the people that shoot at us," said Cpl. Robert L. Squires, 19, advanced field artillery tactical data system operator with 3/11. "No one can get away from us."

    Once the blip appears on their screen, the information is relayed to the combat operations center where Squires, a Moline High School graduate, monitors the fire mission system. He passes the information simultaneously to the fire direction officer and fire direction control center. The FDO contacts the unit operating in the impact location to verify an explosive hit. If it is confirmed, the FDO will determine if artillery can fire on the enemy launch site. Sometimes howitzer fire is not the best way to shoot back due to dense civilian populations or landmarks of historic or cultural significance. While these and other considerations are influencing the decision to fire, the FDC determines which battery will fire, the type of round to be used, and the range to target information.

    "Nothing takes priority but getting safe reliable data to the gun line," said Staff Sgt. Desmond D. Onezine, 30, battalion assistant operations chief, and Lafayette, La., native. "If we don't, we could hit our own troop or innocent civilians."

    Onezine added that artillery has played a vital role on the battlefield since its inception, earning it the title "King of Battle." Ground artillery has a faster response than air support — three minutes maximum.

    The infantry can be confident in the accuracy of artillery, according to Cpl. Trent B. Istre, FDC operator. "We can tailor to their needs with a variety of support."

    "We can bring the rain, or we can bring the light," said Istre about the various rounds artillery uses, which include both high-explosive and illumination rounds.

    3/11 is currently participating in Operation Khanjar as an element of Regimental Combat Team 3. To this point in the ongoing operation, the artillery battalion has only had the need to fire illumination rounds and has not fired any high-explosive rounds. These actions reflect the NATO International Security Assistance Force tactical directive that explains the top priority of coalition forces — to protect the Afghan people, rather than kill the insurgents.

    Operation Khanjar commenced July 2 and involves nearly 4,000 Marines and sailors from Marine Expeditionary Brigade — Afghanistan and more than 600 Afghan national security forces working to secure population centers along the Helmand River valley.



    Date Taken: 07.08.2009
    Date Posted: 07.08.2009 03:11
    Story ID: 36096

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