Garnet Rattler: 1st Marine Division gives JTACs realistic, comprehensive training

May 9, 2023
3 minute read
1st Marine Division Garnet Rattler

U.S. Marines with 1st Marine Division locate their target points during exercise Garnet Rattler on Saylor Creek Range in Grasmere, Idaho, April 18, 2023. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Juan Torres)


U.S. Marines with 1st Marine Division recently traveled to Saylor Creek Range, Idaho, to participate in Exercise Garnet Rattler, April…

U.S. Marines with 1st Marine Division recently traveled to Saylor Creek Range, Idaho, to participate in Exercise Garnet Rattler, April 10-29.

The joint exercise with U.S. Airmen centers around a comprehensive training program to enhance the capabilities of joint terminal attack controllers and other Marine Corps personnel involved in ground operations.

The exercise involved 11 Marines undergoing advanced training as JTACs in simulated urban terrain, utilizing live ammunition, and aided by close air support from neighboring units, along with elements of 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st MARDIV, to serve as a maneuver force.

"Garnet Rattler’s main objective is to take entry level joint terminal attack controllers, forward air controllers, air officers and joint fires observers, and put them in a live-fire environment that has a lot of maneuver flexibility, as well as aviation employment, in order to train realistic scenarios for their entry level controls in the fleet,” explained Master Sgt. Daniel Haack, the JTAC program manager for 11th Marine Regiment, 1st MARDIV.

The training program included advanced technology, such as the Target Handoff System version 2.0, which allows JTACs to communicate with other units and provide critical information to the ground force commander. The Marines also brought a scheme of maneuver for air assets, providing real-time feedback to the JTACs and allowing them to adjust their tactics as needed.

"The importance for me to participate in this type of training is you don’t get many ranges where you have live maneuver,” said Sgt. Michael McCarthy, a joint terminal attack controller with 3rd Battalion, 11th Marines, 1st MARDIV. “It’s all inert ordnance that allows us to have smaller mobile security deployments than we would have in Twentynine Palms. Earlier, we had some bomb dud units landing within 600 meters of friendlies. With a lot of other ranges we have, because of safety limitations, we can’t have it that close. You really get to see what it would look like in a real-life conflict.”

Saylor Creek Range is an ideal location for Garnet Rattler as it offers something most ranges do not, according to Haack.

"I do not know of any inert ordnance-capable range in the United States that offers this amount of flexibility with regard to both use of maneuver, direct fire, indirect fire and aviation-employed inert ordnance,” said Haack.

Exercise Garnet Rattler is part of the Marine Corps’ commitment to providing comprehensive training to its personnel, ensuring they are ready to respond to any situation at a moment's notice.

"So the biggest thing is when a squad or platoon or company goes to a fight, there’s only so many weapon systems that we can carry,” said 1st Lt. Patrick Bergin, a platoon commander with 1st Bn. 1st Marines. “So with a JTAC, a JFO, or a FAC on the ground with us, it allows us to employ mass fires at a greater level.”

The success of Exercise Garnet Rattler demonstrated the effectiveness of the Marine Corps’ training programs and its dedication to maintaining the highest standards of readiness and lethality.

"This type of training is important because it directly affects the capability and lethality of deploying Marine Corps units and the units that those units work with, such as (Marine Expeditionary Units) and (Marine Rotational Force – Darwin),” said Haack. “The ability to employ a tactical air control party and work close air support and assault support assets is critical to the functionality and combat lethality of the (Marine Air-Ground Task Force).”