CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti - From a point high on a mountain side, a forward observer looks up from his laser range finder and radios target coordinates to unseen support troops on the ground. Several kilometers away, a joint team of U.S. soldiers and Marines receives the coordinates, calculates firing trajectory, and gives the order for fire teams to send a volley of 120mm mortar rounds skyward. The entire process takes a matter of minutes, making proper communication and team cohesiveness paramount.
Soldiers with Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa’s 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division and Marines from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted mortar training here recently to sharpen their skills and share tactics across services.
“Training like this is important to us because it helps hone our skills within our specialty,” said U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Jacob Little, 13th MEU Battalion Landing Team. “It makes sure we are ready as the [U.S. Central Command] reinforcement and as the African reinforcement with the Army, to be able to perform any mission at a moment’s notice.”
Working as a cohesive unit, the Soldiers and Marines sent round after round of mortars to targets several kilometers away. Getting to work side-by-side with the Marines in the fire direction center and learn their terminology and tactics is beneficial to future operations, said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Stephen White, 1-63 CAB Headquarters and Headquarters Company mortar platoon leader.
“I get to see how their FDC works hand-in-hand with ours and how quickly we can get fire on target when we are working together,” said White, what had not previously worked alongside the Marines.
The fire team on the ground is only half of the equation; observers in the target area are vital to placing artillery on target.
“We have fire support teams and sniper teams up here calling for fire from mortars of 60mm, 81mm, and 120mm.” said U.S. Marine Capt. William Prom, 13th MEU Battalion Landing Team fire support coordinator.
Prom, who was overseeing operations at the observation point overlooking the target area, stressed how joint training like this improves cooperation between the observers and the fire teams on the ground.
“Working together improves the ability of both the observers and the fire support agencies,” Prom concluded.
Joint training provides U.S. forces the opportunity continue improving beyond the scope of their own service. Working alongside the 13th MEU gives CJTF-HOA one more way to ensure peace and stability in East Africa.