SOUTH KOREA - Translating data into firepower is key for air, artillery and mortar assets when providing indirect fire support to destroy targets from afar.
Republic of Korea and U.S. Marines linked together to conduct indirect fire during a fire support coordination exercise April 13 at Rodriguez Live-Fire Complex during Korean Marine Exchange Program 13-5, part of Ssang Yong 13.
The ROK Marines are with Battalion Landing Team 71. The U.S. Marine mortarmen are with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, and are currently deployed to Okinawa under the Unit Deployment Program.
The event’s purpose was to boost the relationship between the ROK and U.S. forces, letting them get hands-on training on their counterparts’ weapon systems and improve proficiency during a fire support exercise, according to 1st Lt. Charles Eberly, the 81mm platoon commander with Weapons Company.
During the training evolution ROK and U.S. forces operated collectively to understand and learn from each other’s capabilities.
“A vast majority of military occupational specialties throughout the Corps usually train in a vacuum,” said Eberly. “The FSCEX is an opportunity where Marines can take their MOS out of this vacuum, and insert it into a situation with other functioning assets in a Marine Air-Ground Task Force alongside our Korean counterparts.”
Scattered throughout positions in the blistering cold of the ROK, the Marines established gun lines, waiting for data to begin firing.
“On the gun line we have to revert to our basic training when working with mortars to be proficient getting rounds on target,” said Sgt. Brandon C. Johnson, a mortarman with Weapons Company.
As soon as the fire support is cleared, the firing data is dispatched to the air and gun line, according to Johnson. Those Marines compute the request into data for their position and wait for the command to fire.
As soon as the ROK and U.S. Marines received the command to fire, rounds hissed across the terrain after a tremendous blasting sound, engulfing their targets in balls of flames and sending clouds of smoke and sand skyward.
Both forces were able to exercise their combat capabilities and procedures.
“The potency of the 81 mm mortar is amazing and being able to fire it was even better,” said ROK Cpl. Ty Yong Kim, a mortarman with BLT 71. “This was a great opportunity to compare and enhance our understanding on each others’ weapons.”
By observing fire from the gun line he was able to understand the ability of the indirect fire weapons and realize the importance of a mortarman’s capability in the MAGTF, according to Kim. As much fun as firing is, it presents a significant challenge for the Marines.
“Accuracy is the most important part of our training,” said Johnson. “One small mistake can create unwanted fatalities or injuries and our infantrymen depend on us to be accurate and fast when employing rounds to give them fire support.”
The foremost goal throughout the exercise was the improvement of combat readiness during a call for fire and communication between ROK-U.S. forces.
The FSCEX illustrates the importance of cohesion between the U.S. and ROK Marines and enhances combat readiness, according to Johnson.