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Marines with Mike Battery, 3rd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, debrief after a successful direct fire shoot at Integrated Training Exercise 4-18 in Twentynine Palms, California, June 13, 2018. ITX 4-18 is a live-fire and maneuver combined arms exercise designed to train battalion and squadron-sized units in tactics, techniques, and procedures required to provide a sustainable and ready operational reserve for employment across the full spectrum of crisis and global employment.

Photo by Cpl. Alexis Rocha

Mike Battery, 3/14, conducts high desert direct fire shoot at ITX 4-18

18 Jun 2018 | Cpl. Alexis Rocha U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve

With a maximum range of over 20 miles, the M777 Howitzer is generally employed by Marine Corps artillery units to deliver effective indirect fire support, add depth to combat by providing long range support, and deliver counter fires to ensure freedom of action for ground forces. The Reserve Marines of Mike Battery, 3rd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, put their skills to the test with an uncommon mission when they took part in a direct fire shoot during Integrated Training Exercise 4-18, June 14, 2018.

Direct fire refers to the launching of a projectile directly at a target within the line-of-sight of the firer. Direct fire is a special technique that demands a high standard of training and requires an artillery section to operate as an independent unit. Direct fire engages targets at distances less than 2,500 meters. The most likely direct-fire targets are enemy vehicles or dismounted personnel. Marines conducted drills where each section and their respective gun displaced from their original position, moved the Howitzer 800 meters using a 7-ton truck, then dropped the gun to fire live rounds at metal targets, representing enemy tanks—all in under two minutes.

“Indirect fire is when you are shooting artillery and you can’t actually see the effects of the fire. You are going to get calls for fire from forward observers and grunts on the ground,” said Gunnery Sgt. William E. Potting, a field artillery cannoneer with Mike Battery. “With direct fire, on the other hand, you will see the enemy, the enemy is actually coming after you, whether they’re on foot or mobile, and you have to eliminate them, and you’ll see all the effects of that direct fire.”

The artillerymen shot 80 rounds of high explosive ammunition, making large adjustments quickly between targets due to their close range.

“For direct fire, we’re using the high explosive ammunition, with both electronic time fuses and point detonating fuses,” said Potting. “The electronic time fuses we’ll use on troops in the open so that there’s an effect where it explodes in the air creating shrapnel on those troops.”

MCAGCC Twentynine Palms covers more than 998 square miles of high desert, making it ideal for training exercises using live munitions.

“We usually train at Fort McClellan in Alabama,” said Staff Sgt. Philip L. Skaggs, a field artillery cannoneer with Mike Battery. “But there is no direct fire range there. Twentynine Palms is the best place for artillery to practice. We have less restrictions and more space here.”

Artillery is an essential component of the Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force ground combat element, providing commanders an organic source of timely, close, accurate and continuous fire support.

“What artillery brings to the MAGTF is an organic, all-weather weapon. We are probably one of the only weapons systems that can operate under any condition,” said Master Sgt. David H. Marinelarena, a field artillery cannoneer with 3rd Battalion, 14th Marines. “When air cannot fly, or anything else cannot operate, artillery is always there.”


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