News: 11th Marines flex artillery muscle with entire regiment
Story by Sgt. Michael Cifuentes
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - When artillery rounds strike the impact areas aboard Camp Pendleton, the explosions release a dull echo through the corridors of mountains and valleys that lead to small vibrations around the base.
When the firepower is magnified by nine artillery batteries and ordnance from missiles and attack helicopters, the echoes turn into a rolling thunder that rattles a large portion of the base.
The 11th Marine Regiment, a regiment comprised of four artillery battalions and a headquarters battalion, hosted a large-scale combined-arms training evolution here Sept. 9-15 dubbed Fall Fire Exercise. The artillery Marines took ownership of the ruckus caused by their combined 24 howitzers and three batteries firing High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems.
Captain Chris M. Cotton, the commanding officer of India Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, said the mission of the exercise was to develop and sustain the regiment’s ability to plan and execute artillery fires. Specifically, the artillery battalions trained in all aspects in fire support coordination, maneuvering, counter firing and supporting regimental command and control.
“We’re really working to improve our core mission-essential tasks, which as artillery, is providing mass fire support on objectives and targets so infantry can complete their missions with little or no resistance,” said Cotton, a native of Butte, Mont.
The battalions pushed their firing batteries to different locations to simulate positions they’d hold while on offense and defense in battle. Staff Sgt. Brian M. Meyer, the assistant operations chief for 11th Marines, said the exercise standardizes the training criteria and proficiency across every battalion in the regiment, which leads to keeping the Marine Corps’ artillery capabilities at its peak.
“Regimental exercises give the Marines a very fundamental and real approach to help the Marines on the ground (infantry) and help them quickly,” said Meyer, a native of Wittenberg, Wis.
As firing missions were called upon from the regiment’s headquarters element, the Marines manning the M777 Lightweight Howitzer were prepared to fire accurately on command. Furthermore, Cotton said the artillerymen are capable of moving positions with the howitzers, and upon the order, can stop, dismount from the trucks that pull the howitzers, prepare the cannon to fire and have rounds impact targets in less than five minutes.
“We’re well-trained, all-weather, reliable, accurate and very lethal,” Cotton said.
In previous operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Marines serving with battalions from 11th Marines were assigned non-artillery roles on the battlefield – from providing outpost and convoy security to serving as provisional rifle platoons. Cotton said his cannoneers are enthusiastic in getting back to their artillery jobs and sharpening the skills needed to provide fire support.
“We’re back – back to execute that accurate and timely fire support,” Cotton said. “The boys are back, and we’re in top notch.”
Hundreds of rounds impacted throughout the training grounds aboard Camp Pendleton, and some Marines firing the weapon systems said the amount of firepower they can hear coming from fellow gun batteries from their flanks was overwhelming.
Corporal Andrew McClelland, an assistant section chief with India Battery, 3rd Bn., 11th Marines, said no other long-range weapon system matches the same effect of the howitzers – “it’s that decimating power.”
“We want to be able to hit the enemy fast, and hit them hard,” said McClelland, a native of Borger, Texas.
Major General Ronald L. Bailey, the commanding general of 1st Marine Division, said the artillery element of the division is the “king of battle.”
He said the exercise was invaluable to every element of the regiment, from logistical support, to communications, and all skills associated with getting a firing mission to the gun line.
Date Posted:09.15.2012 04:37
Location:MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, CALIF. , CA, US
Hometown:BORGER, TX, US
Hometown:BUTTE, MT, US
Hometown:CAMDEN, SC, US
Hometown:WITTENBERG, WI, US