Striking at sunrise: 3/3 Kilo Marines perform platoon attacks during Enhanced Mojave Viper exercise
Silhouetted by a burnt orange sunrise, a platoon of Marines slapped magazines into their weapons as if fueling them with adrenaline.
An instructor bellowed out for the infantrymen to begin the range. They barreled forward in a flood of movement, unhindered by the weight of full combat loads and extra ammunition.
Marines with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, carried out platoon live fire attacks at Range 410A on Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., Aug. 8, 2011.
Faced with a jarring mess of simulated enemy explosions, artillery and machine gun fire, the platoon continued to advance. They responded with an onslaught of fire, shaping the rocky terrain into their battlefield.
The attacks were part of the 35-day Enhanced Mojave Viper training exercise here. During EMV, the Marines of ‘America’s Battalion’ are training to kill enemy fighters by polishing infantry skills and practicing counterinsurgency operations. They are preparing for a fall deployment to Afghanistan’s Helmand province in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Sgt. Jonathan Campos, a squad leader with Kilo Company, 3/3, said the platoon attacks tested them to combine skills they’d learned in previous training.
Their pre-deployment training program has built operations up from the smallest units — teams and squads — to the platoon level. On EMV’s upcoming ranges, they will graduate to company and battalion attacks.
“Our training is built up from the individual level, and it comes together when we master our basic skills on a platoon level with attachments,” Campos, 27, from Alhambra, Calif., said.
He said this progression allowed attachments such as engineers and working dog handlers to cross-train with infantrymen, and for grunts to learn the attachments’ jobs.
As they moved downrange, the platoons divided into three elements — support, assault and security. The assault element moved toward their first objective, breaching a concertina wire obstacle and using mine detectors to sweep for improvised explosive devices.
Team and squad leaders screamed commands while leading their Marines forward. Unaffected by the staccato of machine gun fire, they cleared three trench systems while the other squads provided security and fire suppression.
Once the dust settled, they conducted tactical site evaluations, combing the trenches for enemy information. Instructors known as ‘Coyotes’ graded the infantrymen and offered suggestions for improvement.
“Working together builds a camaraderie that’s so important for deployment,” Lance Cpl. James Washburn, a team leader with Kilo Co., 3/3, said. “Going through this training confirms each other’s faith in our abilities. As a team leader, I know I can depend on my Marines, and they trust me to effectively lead them into combat.”
Washburn, from Dresden, Tenn., carries scars as reminders of the training’s importance. The 21-year-old was shot in the arm by the enemy during his last deployment to Afghanistan with 3/3. He spent months recovering at Wounded Warrior Battalion West — Detachment Hawaii, but fought until he re-joined his Marines for deployment.
“My purpose in being here is to train my new Marines to be as prepared as they can to fight the enemy,” Washburn said.
Lance Cpl. Jacob Kasparenbysk, one of Washburn’s new Marines, said the range was physically demanding. The 18-year-old squad automatic weapon gunner carried an extra 900 rounds of ammunition in addition to his full combat load, providing machine gun fire for the attacking squad.
While his role during the range demanded much responsibility, Kasparenbysk was excited it brought his team together — and one step closer to being tested in Afghanistan.
“At the end of the day, we’ve improved … and built our family mentality,” Kasparenbysk, from Frost, Texas, said. “We’re able to rely on each other in combat. After all, there’s just us. In the worst possible scenario, I know we’ll push, get rid of the enemy and keep going if there are more.”
Article by Cpl. Reece Lodder, Marine Corps Base Hawaii