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    Target acquisition helps artillery in battle

    Target Acquisition Helps Artillery in Battle

    Photo By Marc Ayalin | Sgt. Dennis Littlepage (rear) and Pfc. Jesse Fox (middle), both target acquisition...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Marc Ayalin 

    III Marine Expeditionary Force   

    CAMP FUJI, Japan — They're few, they're silent and they can't be detected, but they can track a 60mm mortar round from several miles away.

    More than 25 Marines from target acquisition platoon, 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, combed the ranges of the North Fuji Maneuver Area Nov. 2-10, 2009, to practice their skills in locating enemy indirect firing positions and collecting weather information during Artillery Relocation Training Exercise 09-03.

    Of the two sections, radar and sensors, the radar section uses state-of-the-art technology to locate and track indirect fires from enemy positions and determine where the shots originate. In turn, acquired target locations are forwarded to an artillery unit's fire direction center to calculate how to eliminate the threat, according to Chief Warrant Officer 2 John Crites, officer-in-charge of the platoon.

    "If we tell you where the enemy shot from, you can bet that's where they're going to be," said Crites who hails from Chicago, Ill.

    In reference to artillery, the 'King of Battle,' may be the heavy weights in the fight, but without the information acquired by the target acquisition platoon and the forward observers, the guns would be at a stand still, according to Crites.

    The tools the radar section uses for success includes a counter battery radar, a lightweight counter mortar radar and a ground counter fire system that analyzes acoustic sound to locate enemy positions.

    During the exercise, the Marines performed tactical day and night movement that included setting up and tearing down their equipment within minutes. In addition, the Marines were careful in selecting each site by considering the radars' ability to observe the battle space, and also local security capabilities such as entry and exit routes and defensive firing positions, Crites added.

    Within the platoon, the meteorological team plays an important role in the battlefield as well. One of the ways these Marines collect meteorological data is by using the piloted balloon method.

    According to Cpl. Mark Castro, a meteorological Marine with the regiment, the Marines monitor the ascent of a helium-filled balloon at various time intervals. As the balloon changes direction, the team determines the wind's speed and direction. The Marines manually track the balloon with an electronic magnetic meteorological theodolite, a telescope used for measuring horizontal and vertical angles, with the observed azimuth and elevation angles recorded at certain time intervals. Additionally, the Marines factor in predetermined surface temperature and atmospheric pressure from Department of Defense chart tables of the region.

    For the gun line, weather data plays an important role in firing accuracy. It determines how the battery will send rounds down range, according to Castro.

    According to Col. Keil Gentry the commanding officer of 12th Marines, there has been nearly an 80 percent turnover in personnel from the regiment.

    "For most of the Marines and sailors here, this is their first trip to the Fuji area," Gentry said.

    Despite the majority of the sections being new, their leaders were proud of the performance of the Marines.

    "For some of my guys, this was their first time out in the field, so it was a good opportunity to hone our skills and build a cohesive team from the bottom up," said Sgt. Dennis Littlepage, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the target acquisition platoon.



    Date Taken: 11.13.2009
    Date Posted: 11.13.2009 11:08
    Story ID: 41533
    Location: CAMP FUJI, JP 

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