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Lejeune-based infantry Marines coordinate large-scale exercise on Yuma range

By Cpl. Pete Zrioka | | November 5, 2009

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A Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based infantry unit participated in a company-sized exercise here Oct. 27, 2009, as part of their monthlong use of the area’s rocky, mountainous terrain to prepare for a deployment to Afghanistan.

Focused on combining different types of weapons, approximately 220 Marines from Company C, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, moved into a range at the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground to attack a simulated force of 25-30 insurgents.

The company’s objective was to destroy the enemy by effectively using combined arms, ranging from rifles and machine guns to mortars and TOW missiles.

Moving into an 800-by-800 meter area, the company attacked in a “V” formation, with 1st platoon comprising the main effort and pushing toward the enemy from the left. Third platoon assaulted from the right and 2nd platoon trailed their fellow platoons, acting as the bottom of the “V.”

“One of the more challenging aspects of this exercise was all the moving pieces,” said Capt. Nathan Chandler, company commander. “We had three platoons moving independently of each other, yet they had to remain aware of what each other were doing.”

In addition to the scale of the exercise, the rocky terrain of the Yuma area also tested the unit.

“The terrain was taxing on small unit leaders, but also from a planning perspective,” said Chandler. “We needed a plan to move around the terrain, rather than the terrain moving us.”

While the harsh environment was an obstacle for the company, it proved valuable to prepare the battalion for the similar landscape of Afghanistan.

While in Yuma, each of the battalion’s companies have participated in live-fire exercises from the fire team to the company level at various ranges on YPG to the Camp Billy Machen desert warfare training facility in the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range in California.

Using the terrain and ranges here, opposed to the “golf course” ranges of Camp Lejeune, forces small unit leaders to make decisions based on combined-arms solutions, said 1st Lt. Joshua Hartley, Co. A commanding officer.

“Half the time, the decision is made for you on a Lejeune range,” said Hartley.

Being physically removed from higher support here forces the battalion to operate in very austere conditions that will likely be faced in Afghanistan, said Chandler.

“I’d say the terrain is definitely a benefit of training here,” said 1st Lt. Robert Paulus, Co. C executive officer. “But being in the middle of nowhere – opposed to where we train in Lejeune – it also presents logistical challenges that we can train to anticipate and learn from.”

The logistical and operational complications forced on the unit by the rugged environment also gave insight about the enemy waiting overseas.

“I think this may have given the Marines respect for the harsh conditions the enemy is used to operating in,” said Chandler. “In doing that, it will help us better meet him on his own ground and defeat him.”

This is an enemy who has been operating in these conditions a long time, and lived to fight another day, time and time again, said Paulus.

“The enemy is out there, waiting for you, in the mountains of Afghanistan, the deserts and cities of Iraq and the jungles of the Philippines,” said battalion operations officer Capt. Robert Barnhart after the exercise. “And he may not be 10 feet tall, but he is worthy of our respect.”

The battalion is scheduled to depart Yuma Nov. 8 to return to Lejeune and deploy to Afghanistan in the spring of 2010.


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