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Lance Cpl. Robert L. Couret, a low-altitude air defense gunner with Battery B, 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion out of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., aims at a notional aviation target while fellow gunner Lance Cpl. David M. Ogle directs him during an exercise at training area Falcon at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport, Calif., Feb. 12.

Photo by Cpl. Nicole A. LaVine

... in the snow of far-off Northern lands

15 Feb 2009 | Cpl. Nicole A. LaVine

Marines from the 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion out of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., took advantage of a unique training opportunity at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport, Calif., Feb. 1 to 15.

The Marines of Battery B, 3rd LAAD, who reported to MWTC voluntarily, learned the ins and outs of providing mobile air defense to forward combat troops in a cold weather, mountainous environment, said Capt. John P. Muntzer, the commanding officer of Battery B.

The battery set up three operation stations at MWTC training areas Dodo, Falcon and Oriole. There, the gunners, or Marines who fire missiles from the ground at aviation targets, practiced engagements on notional targets in scenario-based exercises. 

3rd LAAD can cover air space up to 10,000 feet from the ground with missile systems like the FIM-92A Stinger Weapons System, said 1st Lt. David S. Robertson, the Battery B executive officer.
The Stinger system is a man-portable, shoulder-fired guided missile system used to engage low altitude aircraft, said Robertson, a Richmond, Va., native.

Robertson said although this function is unique to LAAD batteries, these Marines do more than point a fire-and-forget weapon at enemy targets from the ground.

“LAAD Marines have multiple roles when they deploy,” he said.
In addition to using gunners in missions, LAAD Marines also secure perimeters with automatic weapons, maintain inter-unit and tactical air operation center communication, fill in “radar gaps” with foot patrols and defend convoys, he said.

“Our mission is to provide close-in air defense in support of the MAGTF (Marine Air-Ground Task Force),” Robertson said. “We have to memorize a list of about 90 types of aircrafts. That includes all U.S., current ally forces and enemy aircrafts.”

Muntzer said he believes since the battery’s ground base air defense and air field security training normally takes place at Camp Pendleton or Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., the change of terrain will help his Marines be better prepared for overseas operations.

“This environment is best for the small unit training,” said Muntzer, a Philadelphia, Pa., native. “It strengthens esprit de corps and unit cohesion.”

He said he believes the cold weather environment at MWTC forces Marines to pay closer attention to details, such as the dangers of dehydration in high-altitude, cold weather terrain.

“It was negative 12 when we did our ops [operations] yesterday,” Muntzer said. “You have to work as a team in hostile environments like this. Every Marine, from a captain down to a private, has to take initiative to maintain mission readiness and success.”

Lance Cpl. Daniel T. Mesner, a LAAD gunner with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit out of Camp Pendleton, said he appreciated what the change in scenery did for him and his fellow Marines.

“I like this,” said the Slayton, Mn., native about the training. “It’s defiantly a new experience. I think this will give us an edge on cold environments since we have already done the desert scene.”
Cpl. Andrew J. Mamone, a fellow gunner with the 11th MEU, said he agreed about the advantage afforded by the mountains and snow.

“This will give us a wider area we can operate in,” said Mamone, a Oviedo, Fla., native. “We’ve learned how to prep four-man tents and other basic cold-weather survival tips.”

Although the battery does not have plans to deploy in the near future, their voluntary training conducted at MWTC may serve as a reminder to Marines everywhere that the Corps is above all else, a force in readiness.

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