Army National Training Center Fort Irwin, California --
The Marine Corps is a force in readiness. The 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion proved their readiness during their annual training here, 6 - 20 July, 2014.
This year’s annual training brought the entire battalion to the Mojave Desert to conduct exercises such as weapons training, live fire ranges and demolition. The training allowed the battalion to incorporate basic skills developed in previous deployments.
This was the first time since the battalion’s deployment to Afghanistan in 2009 – 2010 that all the companies, with the exception of Company A, were able to train together.
“This training is vital for staff that don’t typically get the chance to command and control,” said Lt. Col. Lance Ferrell, the commanding officer of 4th LAR. “It is huge for companies to work together and operate on a larger scale.”
As Reserve units, the companies within 4th LAR only meet once a month and two full weeks a year. The companies are spread all around the country in places like Salt Lake City, Utah, Syracuse, New York and Camp Pendleton, California. While the companies work together on their drill weekends, they rarely get to work together as a battalion.
“Most Marines know their entire companies, but this training allows them to work with Marines from other companies that they don’t know,” said Sgt. Maj. Michael Pritchard, inspector-instructor sergeant major of 4th LAR. “Being able to integrate will allow the Marines to do their jobs when they deploy, no matter who they work with.”
The training at Fort Irwin was not only valuable for combat, but for logistics and communications, explained Ferrell. The battalion had to establish communications throughout the mountains that separated the ranges on Fort Irwin.
“The large training area was an obstacle for logistics and communications but valuable training for the light armored vehicles,” said Pritchard. “Fort Irwin gives the LAVs unrestricted training and more movement capabilities than other bases.”
The large training area gave the Marines a chance to use all of the weaponry available on the LAVs and the chance to use the Mine Clearing Lane Charge. Additionally, the Marines had a chance to fire the M242 Bushmaster chain gun, the M240 machine gun and anti-tank guided missiles. Marines also fired a MICLIC, which consists of a rocket tethered to thousands of pounds of C-4 explosives from an LAV. The MICLIC clears out mines and any obstacles, and gives the LAVs a safe and clear path to travel through. The Marines also fired a man-portable MICLIC that consists of two backpacks that fire a smaller rocket with tethered grenades that makes a safe path for Marines. In addition to the firepower on the LAVs, the scouts had a chance to engage the enemy in live-fire exercises with the M4 Service Rifle, M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle and M136 AT4 Rocket Launcher.
The large training exercise gave the battalion a chance to evaluate the companies on mission essential tasks, explained Ferrell.
All of the company’s exercises were carefully evaluated. In addition to the experience the Marines received, the battalion learned the companies’ capabilities.
“This is a great learning opportunity for myself and the rest of the Marines out here,” said Cpl. Christian Orosco, a vehicle commander with Company A, 4th LAR. “Hopefully, the Marines will go back to their companies and build training packages from what they learned here.”
The annual training concluded with the final exercise that incorporated the capabilities of all the companies as they would be utilized should the battalion deploy to combat again.
The company’s abilities were tested and the final exercise tested the battalion’s ability to command and control, explained Lt. Col. Robb A. Sucher, the inspector-instructor of 4th LAR. The goal is to make the battalion ready to deploy with what we learn from the final exercise.
“I will know the strengths and weaknesses of every company,” said Ferrell. “I can tell the commanding general [of 4th Marine Division] we are ready. We are at our highest point of readiness.”