HIMARS battery adds long-range fire support to the battlefield
Task Force Leatherneck provides plenty of artillery support for its ground units throughout its area of operations – M777 A2 howitzers do an excellent job of providing indirect fire in most cases. However, some targets may be out of reach for cannons, or a unit may want something more accurate to support its mission; they may want to go with rockets instead.
The Marines of Romeo Battery, 5th Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, are happy to assist with their High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, providing a different capability than the more well-known M777.
HIMARS have a longer range than cannon artillery. They are also used exclusively to destroy enemy targets, lacking the ability to light up the battlefield with illumination rounds or cloak friendly forces with smoke-screens like the M777.
“One of the things that makes us unique is our long range – we can shoot a very long distance and very accurately, very precisely, and that gives us a capability that makes us very useful for the units [we support],” said Capt. Caleb Hyatt of Coral Springs, Fla., Romeo Battery’s commanding officer. “We can cover the whole Task Force Leatherneck area of operations from our three platoon positions and give the battalions out there the support they need.”
Only two HIMARS battalions exist in the Marine Corps: 5/11 and a reserve unit, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment. The battalions often relieve each other to provide HIMARS support during deployments.
“Every rotation in [Operation Enduring Freedom], one of those battalions deploys a battery independent of the battalion,” said Hyatt, a 2001 graduate of the Naval Academy. “So here at Romeo Battery, we represent kind of a long, proud line of previous batteries that have deployed from our home station.”
Romeo Battery is separated from the rest of 5/11 while in Afghanistan and is currently attached to 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment – also an artillery battalion. Together, Romeo Battery and the rest of 1/12 pack an artillery punch covering short and long distances.
“You look at the cannon batteries that comprise 1/12 over here, and then you add in what Romeo Battery brings to the fight, and now we have complementary and reinforcing capabilities for each other,” said Hyatt. “Target types that are good for rockets, Romeo Battery can shoot; target types that are good for cannons, the other batteries within 1/12 can shoot.”
Romeo Battery is always ready to send rockets down range to support their fellow brothers-in-arms.
“Our mission is to provide general support rocket artillery fires to Task Force Leatherneck,” said Hyatt. “What that really means, and what we take pride in here in Romeo Battery and in 1/12, is 24 hour, all-weather, timely and responsive fire support. We can shoot if the weather’s bad, if it’s windy – no matter what – nighttime, daytime – we pride ourselves in being always ready to support as required.”
They often get calls for fire multiple times each day, and when they’re not reacting to an actual firing mission, the Marines of Romeo Battery practice their craft to stay at the top of their game.
“Some days are really busy; we could be shooting a lot of live missions,” said Hyatt. “Sometimes we go for long stretches without a live mission, but we usually stay fairly busy, always maintaining that readiness, continuing to work and communicate with the units out there so we can respond quickly when they need something.”
The battery’s Marines take pride in maintaining readiness and enjoy putting in extra time to train, ensuring they remain proficient at their jobs.
“I like how squared away [Romeo Battery is],” said Lance Cpl. Steven Makepeace of Baden, Pa., a field radio operator with Romeo Battery. “We’re always on top of everything.”
The battery looks to remain on top for the duration of its deployment and continues to provide HIMARS support for Task Force Leatherneck forces whenever necessary.
“We’re part of a composite artillery battalion here, and I think the way that we are laid out just provides very solid support for Task Force Leatherneck,” said Hyatt. “We’re fortunate as a battery that we have 1/12 here that we’re attached to. We also have 5/11 and their long line of deployed batteries to tap back into, so across the board, we’re proud of what we do. We’re glad to be here to support everybody else out there and just continue to maintain our readiness for whatever comes around the corner next.”
Article by Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde, 2nd Marine Division