MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 11th Marines, 1st Marine Division, provided ground support to aviation Marines during the Weapons and Tactics Instructor course at Siphon 8, which is located north of Nyland, Calif., at the Chocolate Mountain Gunnery Range.
This is the first time Battery A has participated in Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron-1's WTI course.
For each WTI, an artillery unit is required to participate and this year was Battery A's turn.
The artillery unit came equipped with four M-198 medium towed howitzers, which have the capability of shooting a projectile accurately up to 18 miles.
During WTI, Battery A practiced shooting both illumination and high explosive rounds.
"We help the Marines by providing suppressive fire on one target while the pilots focus on destroying another target," said 1st Lt. Robert Nelson, battery executive officer. "Normally we shoot an enemy (surface to air missile) site, so that way the SAM site is unable to engage the aircraft. After we bomb one target, we shoot illumination rounds at the aircraft's target, so they have an idea of where their target is."
"Even though we are here training, our job hasn't really changed much," said Cpl. Eric Fisette, gun three section chief, Battery A. "We normally perform battery shoots at (Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.,) which is what we've been doing here."
Battery A normally conducts a couple of missions a day, in which they shoot several high explosive and illumination rounds.
Because Battery A is filling a supporting role, they have some extra time to do other tasks required by the unit before they deploy to Iraq again later this year.
The unit has been able to do things they wouldn't normally do at Pendleton, said Fisette.
"We have done convoys, participated in an urban exercise in the Yuma community along with shooting our crew served weapons M-249 squad automatic weapon and the M-2 .50 caliber machine gun," said Nelson.
"Here the area is a lot less restrictive because there are not as many people here in our surroundings," said Nelson. "It's nice to be somewhere different because it gets boring to shoot at the same thing all the time."
During WTI, Battery A has been able to give its young Marines experience in the field.
"Training here has provided me a good opportunity because I've learned more here than when at Pendleton," said Pfc. Joseph Riviera, artillery cannoneer, Battery A. "I've learned what an assistant-gunner does, how to maintain the howitzer and how to set up fuses. We've gone on a couple patrols and I've learned what is expected while conducting a convoy."
Battery A stayed in Nyland until the end of WTI, April 23, before returning to Camp Pendleton.