News: ‘Cannon Cockers’ conduct live-fire exercise in support of Steel Knight
Story by Lance Cpl. Joseph Scanlan
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Mountains echoed across Camp Pendleton as 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, fired their big guns during a historic tri-fire exercise here, Dec. 14.
The battalion simultaneously utilized the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, the M777 Lightweight Howitzer and the Expeditionary Fire Support System. This is the first time all three artillery weapons were fired during the same training exercise.
“In a conventional fight, the opportunity to employ those weapons all at once is critical,” said Lt. Col. J.P. McDonough, the commanding officer of 1st Bn., 11th Marines. “Training to be able to do this is something we feel is critical, so we’re able to answer the maneuver or call when infantry needs it.”
The HIMARS is a truck-mounted, multiple-rocket launcher system. It has the ability to launch long-range rockets then quickly maneuver away before enemy forces can locate the launch site.
“Our HIMARS rockets provide us with deep strike capabilities,” McDonough said. “The precision-guided ammunition was used all the time in Afghanistan.”
The M777 howitzer is a towed artillery 155 mm artillery piece that has an effective range of up to 25 miles.
“The howitzers are flexible in providing direct support fire to a wide range of maneuver elements because of the range it has,” said Capt. Ramon Pattugalan, the commanding officer of Alpha Battery, 1st Bn., 11th Marines.
The EFSS includes a 120 mm mortar-based system along with the internally transportable vehicle family. The vehicle is designed to fit into transport helicopters for rapid deployment throughout a given battlespace.
“Being able to be the close range force and the direct support of a maneuver element is both keen to the maneuver forces ability to complete their mission,” said 1st Lt. Jacob Little, the EFFS platoon commander with Alpha Battery. It allows us to bring those fires closer to the element and a have a smaller footprint with better command and control.”
The Marines serving with the battalion spent over a week in training areas refining their live-fire skills and testing their weapons knowledge during Exercise Steel Knight 2013.
“Every opportunity that we’ve had to come out to the field, my guidance to the Marines is to make every second count,” said Pattugalan, a Fontana, Calif., native. “We train as we would fight. When it comes down to it, it’s really a matter of life or death.
“The Marines have embraced that mindset and that’s what allows them to perform, stand on the gun line and have a sense of urgency to get rounds down range to help their brothers,“ Pattugalan said.