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Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command and Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center
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Marines with Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, practice their nighttime standard operating procedures and gun drills Feb. 15, 2011, at the Combat Center’s Lead Mountain Training Area. The team is slated to deploy with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit this summer.

Photo by Cpl. M. C. Nerl

Mortarman Marines add more metal to Twentynine Palms' Lead Mountain

18 Feb 2011 | Cpl. M. C. Nerl Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

Marines with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, ventured to the Combat Center’s Lead Mountain training area to exercise their core competencies, Feb. 14 through 18, 2011.

The battalion’s Weapons Company honed their skills with 81mm mortars, one of their most effective weapons, said 1st Lt. Rory H. Smith, the mortar platoon commander with the company.

“For us, [the training] encompases a hip shoot, where we will move to a pre-determined position with pre-selected fields of fire,” said the Avon, Conn., native. “We’ll most likely coordinate targets after that depending on what the [forward observers and controllers] tell us.”

Smith added the training is good for the Marines, and most have an excellent time, even though coordinating all their tools and elements can be difficult.

“For [mortarmen], it encompases all their training,” Smith said. “The biggest part is keeping [communications with the fire support coordination center], because we’re forward moving elements.

“Other than that, it is fairly easy to do the exercise itself,” he added. “But with newer Marines, it’s good to get them out here and show them how the platoon operates. It’s good training, the guys like it, so it’s a good time.”

Lance Cpl. Joe Dinh, a forward observer with Weapons Co., 2/7, described what his role is during this type of training.

“Our mission as forward observers is to know the capabilites of the 81mm mortar,” said the Liberal, Kan., native. “Since we’re educated and know the limitations of the system, we’re observing and directing fire to use its capabilites to the maximum potential.”

Dinh added the training gets difficult, especially at night. However, the Marines in the company have the ability to see the job through.

“During the day, the training went well,” Dinh said. “Obviously, it’s more difficult to see the targets when there’s a lot of dust, or at night, but we shouldn’t have many problems. We’ll be calling in our own missions directly to the teams.”

Private First Class Samuel Robertson, a mortarman with Weapons Co., said getting the practice is good for the future of the unit.

“There’s a lot of Marines that have been in [2/7] for more than one or two deployments,” said the Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., native. “I’m glad I have the leaders I do, and the time we have right now where it isn’t over 120 degrees out and we can focus on training and getting ready for our deployment.”

The battalion will continue to train in preparation for their upcoming deployment this summer with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, based out of Okinawa, Japan. The unit will become the Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines.

Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms