Combat Center artillery Marines dove into their second consecutive week of air strike training in support of students with the Expeditionary Warfare Training Group, Pacific, Nov. 2 through 6.
Marines and sailors with Mike Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, conducted their Tactical Air Control Party qualifications after spending the previous week completing their Weapons and Tactics Instructor Training at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz.
The battery, which did not anticipate immediate follow-up training upon their return from WTI Friday, had to adapt and overcome a short fuse on their training schedule.
“We had to hurry up and get back from the field then get ready to go out to the field,” said Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Hill, the battery gunnery sergeant. “We had to get supplies, equipment and help from other batteries and the battalion because we were not ready.”
With the help of fellow artillery Marines, the battery loaded up their vehicles and drove the lengthy road to the Quackenbush training area northwest of the installation’s mainside.
Hill, a native of East Bridgewater, Mass., explained how the TACP qualifications train Marine students how to properly call in artillery and air strikes to engage designated targets. The battery accommodated the Marines in training by using live 155-mm rounds and forward observation teams.
The battery provided three howitzers for the exercise, which were manned and ready to fire at the student commands from the Fire Direction Center.
As part of the exercise, the students were required to inform each gun of the coordinates of its target, as well as which 155-mm round to load into the 39 caliber barrel of the weapon.
“We are at the mercy of the students while out here,” Hill said. He explained that the operation is designed to educate and grade the students on their knowledge – the officers decide where, when and what to fire.
Monday was slow for the Marines manning the guns – a total of seven shots were fired the entire day. The pace picked up considerably by the following afternoon, with each gun firing at least 10 rounds.
“At the start of the week we don’t fire that many shots,” said Sgt. Levi Eisenhour, the section chief for gun two. “As the week goes on, we will be firing more shots a day.”
When the Marines were not firing rounds down range or checking their gear, they killed time playing card games, reading books, ripping open Meals-Ready-to-Eat or slept in the shade of the Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacements.
No matter how relaxed the gunners were, they would drop everything as soon as a firing order came in. The Marines scattered about and were in their respective positions, ready to fire rounds down range in seconds.
“We are more motivated compared to other units,” said Lance Cpl. Jose Rodriguez, a cannoneer with gun four and native of Dallas, Texas. “We train the hardest and spend more time out in the field then we do in our rooms.”