TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
When Marines are told to assault an objective, they make sure that they bring every asset available to locate, close with and destroy the enemy.
Marines with Company A, 1st Battalion, 24th Marines Regiment, incorporated a number of different Marine Corps assets in order to successfully complete Range 400, a company size assault, as part of Reserve Integrated Training Exercise 4-13 at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, here, June 20.
ITX is the largest annual Marine Forces Reserve training exercise and a cornerstone of the Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Program, with more than 5,000 Marines participating from units across the United States.
“This range really helped our company become familiar with coordinating a decisive attack utilizing many moving parts,” said Sgt. Matthew Duquette, a platoon sergeant. “The amount of Marines on the ground made it easier for us to cover more ground, but it also made things more challenging.”
With a combat deployment to Afghanistan under his belt, Duquette knows firsthand how important training like Range 400 can be.
“This type of training lets you learn from your mistakes, which is a luxury you don’t have on the battlefield,” added Duquette, a native of Warrenville, Ill. “As Marines, we always have to be ready. You never know when you might be deployed and have to carry out a mission similar to the one on this range.”
Range 400 incorporated a slew of different fire-support assets: medium and heavy machine guns, 60mm and 81mm mortars, snipers, combat engineers, light armored vehicles and shoulder-fired rockets.
Many units have rotated through the combat center to conduct month-long training evolutions in preparation for deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. For any Marine who has completed one of these evolutions, there is one range in particular that seems to stand out among the rest.
“In the Marine Corps, you always hear about Range 400 and how difficult it can be. Once you actually see it for yourself it is very intimidating. The sheer size of the range is massive, even with the entire company occupying it,” said Lance Cpl. Gary Kolatski, a rifleman, and native of Sand Lake, Mich. “It is tough, but it’s still great training. It definitely built our confidence and experience level up.”
For some headquarters Marines, this was a rare opportunity to see firsthand the end result of how supporting efforts directly affect infantrymen on the firing line.
“To actually get out there and see firsthand what infantry Marines do and witness how my job actually affects them was a real eye-opener,” said Cpl. Patrick O’Keefe, a radio operator, and native of Clinton Township, Mich. “When rounds are going downrange and communication isn’t working, it can cause serious problems. You don’t always think about that when you are in the office doing your job.”
According to squad leader Cpl. Gabriel Nevins, from Grand Haven, Mich., the sheer amount of effort that goes into preparing for a company-size assault can be daunting, but even more awe inspiring is the physical exertion used to execute it. Without solid leadership and group effort, accomplishing the mission would be impossible.
“This is the first time I’ve seen our company do an exercise as big as this during my five years with them,” said Nevins. “It’s an excellent way for us to build up unit cohesion by creating a bond in an extreme situation like this. It gives you a taste of what it takes to fully prepare for a deployment. It should definitely open the eyes of any Reserve Marines who get the chance to do this.”
Teamwork is vital, said Lance Cpl. Devin Wilhem, a rifleman with Headquarters and Service Co., scout sniper platoon and native of Midland, Mich.
“I think the ability to mesh seamlessly with other units is extremely important, especially for something like this,” said Cpl. Robert Smith, a forward observer attached to Co. A, and a native of Jacksonville, Fla. “The training here can be applied to any theater, which is why it’s critical to be able to integrate so many moving parts.”
Even though the U.S. military is beginning its withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Marines of 1/24 are still training and maintaining combat readiness ensuring that America’s 911 force remains ready and able to answer the call.