DUGWAY PROVING GROUNDS, UT, UNITED STATES --
Marines with Battery D, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division conducted some unique exercises during their required annual training at Dugway Proving Grounds, Utah, June 10-14, 2017.
Focusing on mobility, lethality and readiness, the Marines improved and refined their tactics, techniques and procedures in multiple events to include; machine gun proficiency, grenade and rifle qualifications, night convoy operations, and artillery operations. However, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment is unique in that it uses high mobility rocket launchers that have a much greater range than traditional cannon artillery.
“Our relevance is our credibility. Annual training is an opportunity to demonstrate our capabilities,” said Col. Joseph Russo, 14th Marine Regiment commanding officer. “A training evolution like this is meaningful and important; it has a purpose that is greater than each of us.”
That "greater purpose" was on display during the final and most critical phase of their annual training. For two days, the Marines of 2/14 conducted accurate High Mobility Artillery Rocket System fires with U.S. Air Force F-35 Joint Strike Fighters providing the target coordinates for the Marines to strike. Utilizing ‘sensor to shooter integration’ the Marines and Air Force combined their strengths to maximize their precision and lethality while maintaining a significant distance away from a simulated enemy.
“The HIMARS can fire GPS guided rockets, and we are trying to incorporate this capability with the F-35s,” said Capt. William Foran, Battery D, commanding officer. “The F-35s have unique sensor capabilities and we are combining our arms with their sensory assets. Utilizing stealth and advanced sensor technology, they can detect a target deep into the battlefield and we can shoot it with precision down to a target the size of one square meter.”
Having a much longer target reach than conventional artillery cannons, one HIMARS launcher can fire all of its six rockets simultaneously while staying 186 miles away from the target. Additionally, since it is GPS-guided, the HIMARS is considered a point target weapons system whereas canon artillery, is more typically used to destroy area-sized targets, Foran explained. With a total weight of only 24,000 pounds, the HIMARS is a lighter, more agile and expeditionary system compared to other Multiple Launch Rocket Systems.
To further demonstrate their mobility, the Marines of Battery D used their HIMARS to conduct simulated artillery raids using U.S. Marine Corps Reserve KC-130 aircraft belonging to Marine Aerial Refueling Squadron 234 out of Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas. An artillery raid is the rapid movement of artillery assets by air or ground into a position from which to attack a high priority target with artillery fires. Detailed planning, surprise and speed are key factors in the execution of an artillery raid.
“The fantastic thing about the HIMARS is that it is a rapidly deployable high mobility weapons system which can be embarked on a C-130,” said Staff Sgt. Travis J. Zurick, a field artillery chief with Battery D, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment. “That combination of characteristics gives us the opportunity to land on an expeditionary airfield, disembark the HIMARS from the C-130, and using the sensors from a variety of aerial platforms, kill targets of opportunity or targets that might be out of reach of any other weapon system available. That capability can allow our forward troops to advance while we quickly get back on the bird and move out to the next mission.”
In the planning stages of this exercise, the Marines with Battery D reached out to the airmen of the 388th Fighter Wing out of Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Some of those airmen were on the ground with the Marines of 2/14 at Dugway Proving Ground to improve their knowledge of the HIMARS’ capabilities.
“We are here to work on the coordination between us and the Marines utilizing their HIMARS and our F-35s,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Joshua Stahl, the 34th Fighting Squadron intelligence noncommissioned officer in charge. “We learned a lot from each other during this exercise. We bridged the gap that sometime exists between the services and we also learned from each other’s tactics, techniques and procedures, making ourselves and the Marines more combat efficient.”
Marine Forces Reserve possesses one of the two HIMARS battalions in the Marine Corps, so half of the total force’s HIMARS capability resides in the Reserve Component. That is a testament to the relevance of the Marine Corps Reserve and how it continues to be an operational force.
“I couldn’t be prouder of these Marines,” said Foran. “A Marine is a Marine. The only difference between them and those on active duty is that when my Marines are not here training, they must juggle their everyday responsibilities such as school and work in the civilian side.”
As weapon systems and tactics, techniques and procedures change, the Marines of Battery D, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment are making the most of their annual training in order to adapt and improve their capabilities, combat effectiveness and readiness and if necessary, be ready to fight tonight.