Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif. --
Marines with Battery C, 11th Marine Regiment rolled up to the firing line at their own pace, but once their boots touched dirt, the clock started. The seven-ton vehicle hauling the M777A2 howitzer detached and circled around to the rear of the gun while the Marines frantically picked and dug their way into the ground to emplace the cannon, sending rocks and debris flying head-high.
The regiment is currently aboard the Combat Center as part of 1st Marine Division’s annual Desert Scimitar, a division-sized exercise bringing together the division’s many war fighting assets. Before their division-sized training began, the regiment personnel decided to brew up some friendly competition between the battalions April 21 to 23.
The units were pitted against each other in a competition of artillery efficiency. 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalion with 11th Regiment and Battery I, 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, showcased their skills as they faced off against each other at the Combat Center’s Rainbow Training Area.
Their objective was given to them. They had two minutes to aim and fire three rounds at their respective targets, tires spread out along the mountainside. They employed the Howitzer in direct fire to engage against their targets, more than 750 meters downrange.
Each explosion created a massive cloud of black smoke and fire downrange as it impacted the side of mountains.
Competition got the Marines moving. The only prize was bragging rights as the best battalion in the both regiments.
“I feel like it makes us better, more aware of our competition and makes us strive to be better,” said Pfc. Nevi Burr, ammunition chief, Battery I, 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment.
During Burr’s turn on the line, his mind was set on getting everything done as quickly as possible, Burr added. Their goal is to give 100 percent on the firing line and their competition reinforced their drive.
In addition to a morale booster, the exercise served as speed training, a necessary skill for an artillery crew to have when engaging targets in combat.
“Although artillery is an indirect-fire weapon, at some point in combat, you may be called upon to engage an enemy tank or troops in the open,” said Staff Sgt. Anthony Parker, 11th Regiment Artillery Training School instructor, and judge for the competition. “If need be, they have to use the skills that we’ve taught them to destroy the enemy.”
The Marines were scored on their firing commands, cannon emplacement and displacement times and of course, the hit.
“You guys have shown you have the skill to put steel on target,” said Col. Stephen E. Liszewski, commanding officer, 11th Marine Regiment. “This is a combat skill that’s been called upon time and again when we go to fight.”
The winners of the competition are scheduled to be announced May 5, after the Desert Scimitar training exercise is completed.