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    Symphony of fire: ‘America’s Battalion’ air, ground forces combine for fire support coordination exercise

    Symphony of fire: ‘America’s Battalion’ air, ground forces combine for fire support coordination exercise

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Reece Lodder | Lance Cpls. Justin Turner and Phil Schiffman, mortarmen with Weapons Company, 3rd...... read more read more



    Story by Cpl. Reece Lodder  

    Marine Corps Base Hawaii

    MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Translating communication into firepower from afar, Marines with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, performed a fire support coordination exercise on Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., from Aug. 5 through 7, 2011.

    After testing their proficiency during a FSCEX at Pohakuloa Training Area on the Island of Hawaii in April, 3/3’s air, artillery and mortar assets combined to destroy targets from afar.

    During the 35-day Enhanced Mojave Viper training exercise here, the Marines of ‘America’s Battalion’ are training to kill enemy fighters by practicing counterinsurgency operations with supporting arms, aviation and logistics units. They are preparing for a fall deployment to Afghanistan’s Helmand province in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

    First Lt. Derek Randall, an artillery forward observer with Kilo Company, 3/3, said the FSCEX pulled together each element’s training.

    “Most of our military occupational specialties operate in a vacuum,” Randall, from Jonesboro, Ark., said. “The FSCEX is one of the first opportunities we can take our MOS out of this vacuum, and inject it into an atmosphere with all the other functioning parts of a Marine Air Ground Task Force.”

    Sprawled over positions in the blistering California wasteland, the teams provided fire suppression for amphibious assault vehicles moving around the battlefield.

    Their efforts were a practice run for EMV’s Exercise Clear, Hold, Build 2. During CHB-2, they will support the battalion’s line companies while infantrymen attack an objective using AAVs.

    The battalion’s company commanders planned attacks and passed timelines to the exercise’s hub, the fire support coordination center. This allowed the FSCC to establish timelines supporting the movement and de-conflict the objective using air assets, 1st Lt. David Kemp, executive officer, Weapons Company, 3/3, said.

    Perched atop a hill miles away from their target, FSC team leaders configured their plans of attack using ground assets — artillery and mortar forward observers — and air assets — forward and joint terminal air controllers.

    Lance Cpl. Shane Glasco, an 81mm mortar fire direction center chief with Weapons Company, 3/3, said it was challenging combining three independent elements to simultaneously achieve a mission.

    “When we’re working with mortars, artillery and air, we need to be proficient at our job to correctly get rounds on the target,” Glasco, 23, from Hinesville, Ga., said.

    Once the fire support was cleared by the FSCC, firing data was relayed to each element. In the air or on the gun line, the Marines processed the request, computed it into data for their position and waited for fire approval.

    On the FSCC’s command to fire, rounds hissed across the battlefield. The rounds engulfed their targets in balls of flames, sending clouds of sand and smoke skyward.

    Monitoring mortar fire from the gun line, Glasco said understanding the capability of the mortar system and firing in support of maneuvering troops opened his eyes to how the mortarmen fit into the overall picture.

    Their progression in training followed them from Hawaii to California. After employing their skills on a smaller scale at PTA, the mortarmen had no room for error during their final pre-deployment training at EMV.

    “Firing here is a lot more fun but a little stressful,” Lance Cpl. Brett Neibel, a mortarman with Weapons Co., said. “Our training at PTA brushed up on what I learned at the School of Infantry, but here, being accurate is enforced.”

    As the weeks wind down to deployment, accurate fire under the pressure of evaluation ensures the Marines of 3/3 are prepared to lay waste to enemy fighters in Afghanistan.

    “We need to be fast and accurate to catch the enemy by surprise — and then destroy them,” Glasco said.



    Date Taken: 09.09.2011
    Date Posted: 09.09.2011 21:17
    Story ID: 76792

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