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Marines of Gun Six, Battery L, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment work with soldiers of the Australian Army to fire the M777 A2 Howitzer during the Golden Eagle exercise held at Lead Mountain training area Nov. 1, 2011.

Photo by Pfc. Ali Azimi

Exchange of fire: Australian, Marine artillerymen bond over bombs

4 Nov 2011 | Lance Cpl. Sarah Dietz Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

The Marines of 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, shared much with the soldiers of the Australian Army 1st Brigade, 8/12th over the last two months.

From exchanging knowledge to campgrounds in each others’ homeland, the two units have formed bonds of brotherhood and trust that go beyond their primary mission of artillery.

It all started with Operation Golden Eagle in August, where the Marines from 3/11 took a month-long trip to Australia to learn about the M198 howitzer used in the Australian Army. “I grew up on those [howitzers],” said Staff Sgt. John Harwood, section chief of Gun Six of 3/11. “It wasn’t new to me, but my Marines had to learn how to fire the gun.”

This was the first time many of the Australian soldiers worked with Marines; the similarities among the military branches were enormous.

“They were the same as us,” said Australian Lance Bombardier James Thatcher, detachment commander for 8/12th. They work the same and joke the same, he said.

After the month long field training in Australia, the Marines came home, only to see their new comrades on their turf in the ranges of the Combat Center nearly a month later.

This time, it was the artillerymen of 3/11’s turn to teach the soldiers about their M777 howitzer, the primary howitzer us in the Marine Corps and a weapon the Australian army has recently incorporated in its artillery units.

“It uses the same [ammunition] but is a different gun,” said Australian Bombardier Matt Powers, the section chief of 8/12th. “It has a lot more computers and technology in it. This has been great for hands on experience and the Marines are awesome teachers.”

Aside from knowledge and experience, the two nations gained something invaluable--a brotherhood.

“We picked up right where we left off [after Operation Golden Eagle],” Thatcher said. “It feels like we are a team now. It all started back in Australia and we finished it here. These guys are my mates.”

“We’re so close and really tight,” said Cpl. Nicholas Noe, the recorder for gun six 3/11.

There isn’t much of a culture gap, and we will definitely keep in contact with each other, he added.

The Australian’s visit here will end late November, after training and have experienced the 3/11 Marine Corps Ball.

Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms