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U.S. Marines with Echo Company, 2d Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2d Marine Division, suppress targets on a company battle course on range G-36, Camp Lejeune, N.C., May 23, 2021.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Jacqueline Parsons

Excellence Is Forged In the Night

3 Jun 2021 | Story by Lance Cpl. Jacqueline Parsons 2nd Marine Division

After months of preparation and planning, 2d Marine Division (2d MARDIV) conducted the first iteration of night live-fire training on range G-36 on May 23, 2021. 

Range G-36 opened in December 2020 as Camp Lejeune’s first company-level battle course. Since its debut, units have run the course only in the daytime due to the challenging and unfamiliar layout, including dense treeline and uneven terrain making up the majority of the training area. 

“The range has about a 10 sq. km. footprint and is the largest, and arguably most challenging, range for an infantry unit to maneuver and conduct live-fire training on Camp Lejeune,” said Maj. Patrick Hassett, operations officer with 2d Marine Regiment, 2d MARDIV. “There are significant complex live-fire problem sets within the battle course.”

Maneuvering company assets in the dark, which include combat engineers, heavy weaponry, mortars, and vehicles with Combined Anti-Armor Team, requires months of training in order to successfully seize and hold objectives swiftly and safely. 

The first battalion within 2d MARDIV slated for the challenge was 2d Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment (2/8). The battalion conducted reinforced attacks with its three companies as the finale of its Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation (MCCRE), which is used to test battalions on deployment readiness.

On May 22, 2021, Echo Company of 2/8 took to the battle course, making history as the first company to demonstrate a successful level of proficiency on G-36. 

In order to excel in the difficult environment, Echo Company first rehearsed with no ammunition, day and night. When the sun set, Marines and Sailors were equipped with night vision optics to navigate the terrain. 

“Keeping accountability while trying to maintain fireteam integrity, and understanding where the supporting and adjacent units are, is extremely challenging at night,” said Sgt. Sam Griffith, a squad leader with Echo Company. “As a small unit leader, you have to identify these things on the deck, fix it on the fly, debrief after, and correct the mistakes that you’ve made; that’s how you get better every time.”

 When ammunition was introduced the following day, Staff Sgt. Andrew Tarleton, a platoon sergeant with Echo Company, said his platoon did very well in the day attacks, but he said the night attacks brought a different emotion.

“Going into the night live-fire attacks, my platoon was excited,” Tarleton said. “To be the first battalion to conduct the range at night is something we take a lot of pride in.” 

At the end of the evaluation, all three of 2/8’s companies completed the live-fire battle course in the day and night, earning the distinction of an apex battalion, a distinction of being at peak performance in 2d MARDIV.

“Being an apex battalion means that we are the most lethal and ready a battalion can be,” said 2nd Lt. Senen Ubina, a platoon commander with Echo Company. “We are the most combat ready unit, and if we’re called to go somewhere and execute missions, then we’re prepared to our utmost ability.”

While this is a significant milestone for 2/8 and 2d MARDIV, the end goal for the division is to have all its battalions reach apex status. With G-36 fully functioning and ready for other units to make their mark on its vast training area, it is only a matter of time before 2d MARDIV is fully equipped with battalions more trained, lethal, and combat ready than ever before.

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