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Machine gunners with Company B, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, lay down suppressive fire at Range 410 during a platoon-sized combined arms live fire-maneuver exercise during Exercise Steel Knight 2013. 1/4 is participating in 1st Marine Division’s largest combined arms live fire-maneuver exercise.

Photo by Lance Cpl. D. J. Wu

Steel Knight: 1/4 begins annual Combat Center exercise

7 Dec 2012 | Lance Cpl. D. J. Wu

As Exercise Steel Knight 2013 progresses, members of 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment were at the Combat Center's Range 410 practicing their platoon-sized combined arms live-fire maneuvers Nov. 30.

The exercise is a starting point for the battalion's training while they're at the Combat Center for Steel Knight. 1st Bn., 4th Marines is working alongside the other battalions in their regiment under the umbrella of Regimental Combat Team 5 for the division-level exercise.

Company B of 1 /4 conducted the platoon-sized attack as the first step in getting ready for the division level final exercise and getting  ready for future deployments.

“This is practice for the bigger picture,” said Cpl. Eric Flores, squad leader, Company B, 1/4. “It helps build confidence and helps me become a better leader.”

Flores was just of of the battalion's many Marines that are using this training to improved small unit leaders. This stage of the exercise lets platoons, squads and teams of Marines work out their deficiencies and improve cohesion to work better as a team in the long run.

“Keeping my guys alive and completing the mission are my biggest concerns,” Flores said. “Ultimately the biggest thing I want to take from this training is the confidence that my Marines have in me. I want to be that go-to leader.”

The beginning stages of SK13 include individual units conducting training with the Tactical Training Exercise Control Group. TTECG puts units participating in SK13 through elements of the forthcoming Integrated Training Exercise or ITX, TTECG’s new  pre-deployment training program.

“This is actually a new version of Steel Knight,” said 1st Lt. Jake Crockett, executive officer, Co. B, 1/4. “We’re the first ones to go through this version of Steel Knight, where TTECG is validating what they’re calling ITX, which is the new Enhanced Mojave Viper.”

The Marines are going step by step in the exercise. They start with platoon sized attacks and work their way up to company attacks before integrating with mechanized assets.

“It’s a building block approach,” Crockett said. “We want to set them up for success by starting at the platoon level.”

Marines and sailors began the attack at Range 410 with combined arms to make their way through the range’s trench system. Their advance to the enemy position was aided by employing maneuver with fire, breaching procedures and rocket assets.

“All of those things induce some sort of frictions with the Marines,” Crockett said. “Those are major takeaways from this exercise, from rifleman all the way up to platoon commander.”

The Marines of 1/4 will be joining the other battalions of the regiment in later segments of the exercise.

“It’s unique in the fact that the whole regiment hasn’t operated under the same command since like Bataan,” said Crockett.

SK13 is 1st Marine Division’s largest combined arms live-fire exercise and will continue until Dec. 18.

This is the first year the exercise has been conducted simultaneously at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., and at the Combat Center.

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