MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Noncommissioned officers with the Combat Center’s Headquarters Battalion participated in an exercise at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Dec. 7-8, learning how to call for fire and casualty evacuations.
No matter what a Marine’s primary military occupational specialty is, Sgt. Maj. James D. Walsh, with Headquarters Bn., said the Marines need to remember what they have been told since before they left for recruit training.
“Every Marine’s primary job is a rifleman,” Walsh said. “You don’t know what environment you’re going to be in during the next week, the next month or the next year. It’s easy to say ‘never,’ but it’s better to be prepared.”
Throughout their two-day trip, the 21 Marines learned how to find their locations and a target’s location on maps, and how to effectively direct artillery fire upon it.
Although the idea of calling for fire might appear easy, unless a Marine has the necessary skills and knows the proper jargon, this seemingly simple task can become difficult and even turn deadly, said Ed Blanz, the site manager at the Combined Arms Staff Trainer.
“If you say it wrong, they’ll misunderstand you,” he said. “If they misunderstand you, they’ll kill you.”
With sequences of numbers, letters, coordinates and requests, the Marines used practical application to evaluate how well they could use the terms, math and lingo.
At first some of the Marines were confused, but once the class entered the simulator known as the Combined Arms Command and Control Training Upgrade System, they quickly took to it,” said Cpl. Blake Meyer, a company clerk with Company B, Headquarters Battalion, who has served in Iraq as an anti-tank missile man.
“Once we got in the simulator and started working on the computer getting the hands-on training, it became a lot easier,” he said.
Using the simulator, Marines who had never called for fire before began using their skills and radioed in their targets, waiting only a few seconds before a simulated artillery round told them if they had made the grade.
“You can’t take care of everything with direct fire weapons, and in complex attacks or ambushes, the skills we learned here become invaluable,” Meyer said.
The Marines also learned about the inner workings of casualty evacuations, and how to call in such assistance using the nine-line casualty evacuation method.
The nine-line protocol, designed to communicate with helicopters, efficiently and quickly relays a slew of information to the pilots, including the seriousness of the casualty’s injuries, pick-up location, pick-up terrain and enemy presence. This ensures the quickest and safest medical evacuation of wounded personnel possible, said Don Wimp, air advisor at the CAST, and a former air controller.
“As NCOs, you’ll have Marines under you,” Wimp said. “As NCOs you need to know how to call in a [casualty evacuation] to be able to take care of your Marines.”
Using the simulator, the class sighted locations for a casualty evacuation and took turns calling for assistance.
The training at the CAST is a part of quarterly-scheduled field exercises Headquarters Bn. uses to get their Marines out of their supportive roles and into to the field.