Photo Information

Sergeant Luke McNally of Marlton, N.J., patrols through the brush during a live-fire exercise. The 27-year-old squad leader with Company F, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, led his squad of Marines through the burning fields and smoke-filled air to the end of the range.

Photo by Cpl. Marco Mancha

8th Marine Regiment clears enemies down range

17 Apr 2012 | Cpl. Marco Mancha 2nd Marine Division

The sound of gunfire echoed through the thick brush and tall, green trees surrounding the lengthy training area. Hardened war fighters worked, bound-after-bound, and smoothly maneuvered their way from one end of the range to the other.

Company F, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, recently spent two days conducting live-fire exercises, including platoons working to destroy all enemy territories.

“Stand by for mortar rounds,” shouted the radio operator attached to the team of machine gunners.

The mortar rounds cleared the warriors, within minutes, to move onto the field and begin accurate suppressive fire toward the several shacks scattered down range. Six to eight minutes was all the team had to eliminate as many targets as possible and keep suppressing the enemy with a continuous rate of fire.

“The mortars help soften the targets which allows the machine guns to get into position and suppress fire,” explained Sgt. Luke McNally of Marlton, N.J. “That’s when we move under the cover of the machine gun and begin our assault.”

Another platoon, slightly ahead, maneuvered toward the enemy, bombarding them with 5.56 mm rounds, grenades and several rockets.

McNally, a squad leader with the company, led his squad of Marines through the burning fields and smoke-filled air to the end of the range. This was where the entire platoon stormed up the final hill and reached their endpoint.

“All that fire support would somehow have to come from internally if we didn’t have these supplementary weapon attachments,” added McNally, a 2006 Burlington County College graduate, while explaining his appreciation for the training event allowing the entire platoon to work together.

Training like this doesn’t happen every day. Many infantry companies and battalions must first work with their Marines in small teams of about four members and work their way up.

One platoon sergeant with the company further explained of just how important this type of training is for his Marines.

“We want to see the Marines successfully use suppressive fire to their advantage and just utilize every capability they have, both organic to the team and any attachments,” said Staff Sgt. Jim Hardin of Orange, Calif. “The training itself is very progressive, and we work up to something like this from the fire-team level all the way up to the platoon and company level.”

A training evolution like this may take several months of smaller evolutions like fire-team attacks, Military Operations in Urban Terrain training, and other similar events. This recent live-fire exercise took Company F about three months to put together.

These types of offensive attacks may not be used in the battlefields of Afghanistan now, but one Leesburg, Va., native believes this will help his Marines work together.

“They won’t do something like this in Afghanistan, but it helps them learn and refine the basics, and work with each other,” said 1st Lt. Cory Flores, a platoon commander with the company.

Gun smoke and small embers filled the air as the last platoon of sweat-drenched Marines reached the top of hill. McNally, like many of the Marines around him, walked off the range with a satisfied grin on his face knowing his Marines did well.

“What can I say, we did great,” said the 27-year-old. “We worked well moving as one toward the same objective.”

The objective was met and the men of Company F gained experience working together.

“It’s not about the smoke in the air or how many rounds we shot,” said Boiling Springs, Pa., native Cpl. Matt Keller, a squad leader with the company. “It’s all about, ‘Did we hit?’ and today we hit hard.”