MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
As Marines dashed across the desert terrain toward the first concrete building of the mock city, four fully-loaded tanks rumbled up the dusty streets, sweeping the area for targets with its 17-foot main gun. Suddenly, the barrel on one of the tank’s main guns locks into place. The ground trembles and dust and smoke swirl where a 122 mm round has just blasted from the nozzle of the steal tank.
Marines and sailors of Company C, 1st Tank Battalion, underwent an infantry and tank integration training evolution with Australian soldiers Oct. 23.
Australian soldiers of Squadron A, 1st Armoured Regiment, trained side-by side with Marines and sailors of Scout Platoon and Company C, along with Marines of the Tactical Training Exercise Control Group at Range 210, a live-fire range in the Combat Center’s training area, said Maj. Michael Del Palazzo, 1st Tanks operations officer.
The exercise, which takes place about once every two years, is called Exercise Gold Eagle, said Del Palazzo.
“Gold Eagle is an exchange of training between Australian defense forces and us,” said Del Palazzo, a Marlton, N.J., native. “They’ll be learning from us about the Abrams Tanks [M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank], and we will be learning about how they operate. It’s a great exercise.”
The exercise combined an organic reconnaissance element which served as dismounted infantry and tanks infiltration of a mock city to assure procedures and execution were conducted properly, said Del Palazzo.
The entire process was videotaped in order to make a training video that will be seen by units that undergo Mojave Viper, a month-long pre-deployment training evolution here.
“The ultimate goal of this training is to document and show units who come here in the future how to conduct infantry and tank operations properly,” said Del Palazzo.
Maj. Sean Benporath, commanding officer of Squadron A, said he looked forward to learning from 1st Tanks Marines in their element.
“We’re here in a coalition setting to try and cross-pollinate with Tanks [1st Tank Battalion] on our work,” said Benporath, a Perth, Australia, native.
Benporath added after the squadron’s return to its home base in Darwin, Australia, on Nov. 1, they will have taken valuable knowledge for their own tank crews in Australia.
Australian defense forces received their own Abrams Tanks in 2006, said Del Palazzo.
Although this was the first time soldiers of 1st Armoured Regiment have trained with Marines at the Combat Center, Australian defense forces have been training with Marines here for years, he added.
In addition to Australian soldiers training here, Marines and sailors have also traveled to Australia and conducted exercises there, said Capt. Peter M. Rummler, the commanding officer of Company C, 1st Tanks.
“We had an operation last month where we went to Australia and did some operation training in their tanks,” said Rummler, an Oscar, La., native.
Rummler explained the tank company and Australian unit trained with tanks in the outback near Mount Bundy in the northern territory.
That exercise, like Exercise Gold Eagle, allowed U.S. and Australian forces to exchange information on standard tank operations and procedures.
“We hoped they learned as much from us as we did from them,” said Rummler.
Australian Cpl. Adam Lea, a combat clerk with Squadron A, said he took a lot from the experience, especially it being his first time training here with Marines.
“These facilities are a lot better than the ones we’ve used,” sad Lea, a Perth, Australia, native. “We did a lot of operations and infiltration with targets all around us. It also helped that we did a few dry rounds first.”
The next Gold Eagle training period is expected to take place sometime in 2010, said Del Palazzo.
After Marines, sailors and Australian soldiers spent more than eight hours conducting tank and infantry drills, they packed up their humvees and Tanks in preparation for the next training series of evolutions called Force-on-Force, said Gunnery Sgt. Jason Villasana, 1st Tanks master gunner.
The Force-on-Force training, also referred to as black-top training, will allow Marines of 1st Tanks to show Australian soldiers first-hand how they engage enemy targets with individual weapons, said Villasana, a Sabinal, Texas, native. The final black-top training exercise concludes today.