1st Battalion, 11th Marines demonstrates artillery lethality during spring FIREX
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. – Marines and Sailors with 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment completed the Spring Fire Exercise in Twentynine Palms from 11 - 26 March. The training enhanced the unit’s ability to support distributed operations and improved accuracy and efficiency.
The Marines and Sailors of 1/11 spent two weeks at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center refining fire support procedures from the fire direction center down to the gun line. Primary training objectives included dispersed section operations, which led to greater staff non-commissioned officer ownership and a wider range of support for the M777A2 155mm howitzer.
“We began to experiment and test theories in respect to distributed operations, and a lot of learning took place,” offered Staff Sergeant Gino Morato, a platoon sergeant with Battery C, 1/11. “This construct directly correlates to how we envision an EABO scenario, where decentralized authority and distributed operations may be the only way to keep Marines and equipment in the fight. The largest lesson learned was the emphasis on the need and importance to train, mentor, and retain the most capable leaders in those positions, where maturity and capability of the NCO’s will be needed.”
Despite evolving technologies such as the high mobility multiple artillery rocket system, or HIMARS, cannon artillery and mortars play a significant role in closing with and destroying the enemy. Duration suppression, immediate suppression, marking targets, and other critical tasks of artillery and mortars limit an enemy’s ability to engage friendly forces, and ultimately lead to a more lethal and more effective Marine Air Ground Task Force. Through the FIREX, 1/11 proved concepts which allow them to best support the ground scheme of maneuver in austere and challenging terrain.
“The importance of what 1/11 accomplished at Regimental Spring FIREX 1-23 was to bridge the gap between the capabilities of the M777A2 and aging techniques, tactics, and procedures to allow the community to adapt to evolving threats and mission sets,” said Captain Jake Turk, the Battery C commander. “1/11 sought to employ the M777A2 and the Digital Fire Control System to its fullest capabilities by operating in a decentralized, distributed construct.”
1/11 challenged itself in more than just conceptual employment. Marines and Sailors drilled constantly to increase accuracy and speed at all levels of the indirect fire process. They also focused on better logistics planning, even down to the details of how ammunition trucks are loaded to ensure more efficient emplacements and displacements. 1/11 Marines often slept in full combat gear to ensure constant readiness at the gunline.
“The ultimate goal and lesson learned was that we need to continue to enhance down the youngest Marine in the unit, the importance and strategy of developing new SOPs that allow us to remain survivable, employment of the weapon system, and their ability to shoot, move and communicate effectively in timely and accurate area,” added Sergeant Mason Barbosa, a Howitzer chief in Battery C, 1/11. “Our Marines learned to adapt to this new construct to outpace and outmaneuver an adversary with similar and often more effective equipment.”
Decentralized leadership and small unit actions remain critical components of successful Marine Corps operations, and the FIREX reinforced that mentality with the Marines and Sailors of 1/11. Training, mentorship, and realistic repetitions are key to maintaining lethal and ready forces, and the Marines and Sailors of 1st Marine Division work tirelessly to ensure that standard is met.
Story by Capt. Joseph DiPietro