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Pfc. Rick O’Donnell, a light armored vehicle crewman with Company E, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, protects an open hallway for the other Marines in his fire team during the company’s assault on Combat Center Range 111, May 14.

Photo by Pfc. Michael T. Gams

Erie Company blasts through live-fire shoothouse

14 May 2009 | Pfc. Michael T. Gams

At 11 a.m. May 14, Combat Center Range 111, designed to increase proficiency in Military Operations in Urban Terrain, exploded into action as Marines and sailors of Company E, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, turned off their rifle’s safeties and blasted targets away.

For many of the Marines and sailors of the newly stood up Company E, or Erie Company, who participated in the week-long training evolution, this was their first opportunity to train in an urban environment.

The range itself is unique, allowing Marines and sailors to fire 360 degrees in any direction inside of buildings. The walls of the buildings are made of three-foot thick shock-absorbing concrete, rated to withstand the impact of a .50 caliber round.

To prepare for the live-fire evolution, Company E spent the two days prior running through the range’s buildings dry, or without ammunition, said Master Sgt. Scott Peterson, the company operations chief.

“We’re starting out by developing and sharpening our skills clearing rooms in two, three and four-man teams,” he said. “Being an LAR company, we do a lot of mounted and unmounted patrols when deployed, so we need to be able to transition off of the vehicle and be able to perform urban attacks.”

The company is simply building their skills from the foundation up to proficiently perform full-scale assaults on enemy positions when they deploy sometime this fall, he added.

“Being able to shoot in a live-fire range like range 111 is good for the Marines and sailors,” said Lance Cpl. Matt Benskin, a scout team leader with 3rd LAR and a Salem, Ind. native. “Most of them haven’t ever done this type of training before.”

The training helps the members of Company E gain confidence in themselves and in the men to the left and right of them, he added.

“I learned to slow down and pay attention to what is going on around me,” said Pfc. Evan Blackburn, a light armored vehicle crewman with 3rd LAR. “We learned to work as a team and trust each other – people are firing live rounds literately feet from you.”

The company did extensive dry runs through the range’s buildings to help everyone gain confidence in what they needed to do when actual bullets were flying, he said.

In preparation for future deployments overseas, 3rd LAR will continue to train in situations which test the battalion’s Marines and sailors from the individual to the entire battalion, Peterson said.

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