At the moment the call was made, Marines dropped what they were doing and jumped into their positions without need of further order. Soon radios started to roar with voices and the gun line with fire.
Battery S, an artillery unit with 5th Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, provided fire support from the Lava Training Area, for 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment’s Enhanced Mojave Viper rotation, Sept. 19 to 23, 2011.
“This supports everyone,” said Cpl. Carl M. Hunt, the number three cannonier for Gun 4 with Sierra Battery. “This is a combined operation.”
The artillerymen spent day one setting up and conducting a series of dry fire exercises. As the week progressed, the dry fire turned into live fire, providing suppressive fire, smoke screens and illumination rounds. These exercises ran both day and night, covering different types of simulations.
“We can lay a smoke screen down for the ‘grunts,’ they can run through it, then we can sit on top of it with helos,” Hunt said. “It’s actually a vast operation in itself, and it’s actually really good.”
By partnering with artillery experts, the 3/3 Marines became familiarized with artillery’s role in combat, learned how to call in a request using a grid and how to effectively deploy the artillery arsenal.
Besides training 3/3, the practice helped Battery S Marines improves their own skills.
“It helps me get better at my job,” said Lance Cpl. Christopher Hosein, a fire direction controller with Battery S. “Every time I do it, I get better.”
The process of firing the M777 A2 Howitzer consists of a system of safety checks and calculations leading to a fire at the gun line.
After receiving the call for a fire mission, the Fire Direction Control Marines manually calculated all the information to find the correct trajectory of fire. The FDC take a number of variables into account as they process and map the information.
“It is the hidden mad-house,” said Staff Sgt. Morgan Dickey, the operations chief for Battery S.
Once the calculations are complete, the FDC transmits the processed information to the recorder at the guns.
Five to seven seconds after the information is received, the chosen M777 A2 Howitzer fires, blowing a dust of cloud from its position and sending hot lead toward the target and a shock wave of explosive energy coursing through the immediate area.
The 5/10 Marines are scheduled to stay at the Combat Center until Oct. 1 to continue helping their fellow Marines with training and to keep their own skills sharp for the next time they are called to duty.
Article by Pfc. Ali Azimi, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms