Fort Bragg, N.C. --
Marines with 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, maintain a mission of providing fire in support of 2nd Marine Division using organic indirect fire assets in order to suppress, neutralize or destroy the enemy.
The necessity to maintain that mission took 10th Marines to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for the biannual exercise Rolling Thunder, April 28 through May 16, 2014.
Master Gunnery Sgt. John Locke, the regimental field artillery chief for 10th Marines, said that training at Fort Bragg allows the Marines within all aspects of the regiment to conduct a lot of training that they aren’t provided at Camp Lejeune starting at the battery, battalion and regimental levels.
“As we progress in training it gets more complex so it allows all of the military occupational specialties to come together and work together as a regiment, which we don’t do enough. To get the entire regiment here at one time in this training area brings so much more to our training,” said Locke.
Sergeant Darnell Johnson, an artillery training school instructor with 10th Marines, said that along with bringing the entire regiment together, Rolling Thunder allows each battery within 10th Marines to come together for the key event: Top Gun.
Top Gun is an internal competition within the regiment that showcases the capabilities of each battery and grades them on emplacement and knowledge of the weapons system, communications and organization of the convoy out of the firing position.
“Top Gun really is the main event; it’s bragging rights,” said Johnson. “That’s what the Marines strive to achieve.”
Locke said that Top Gun is about the weapons system, the M-777 lightweight 155mm howitzer, gun line, fire direction center and the forward observers coming together to make sure rounds hit accurately and in a timely manner.
Top Gun encompasses all aspects of the training and readiness manual, a document that captures individual and collective training requirements to aid units in accomplishing their combat mission, and establishes a standard for batteries to use as they come together to compete for bragging rights over being the best battery in the regiment.
However, to win the title Top Gun, the batteries must excel in three different areas of expertise.
“We go off of the training and readiness manual for emplacing and displacing the weapons system, along with conducting fire missions, communication between the fire direction center and the gun line, and the organization of the convoy leaving the firing position,” said Johnson.
The batteries also got the chance to compete and learn from soldiers with Charlie Battery, 3rd Battalion of the 319th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division by integrating them into the Top Gun competition.
“It’s important because we come here twice a year to train on their base, so we wanted to invite them into our competition to see how they do things and vice versa,” said Locke. “Since they are an airborne unit, they were a bit lighter, so it gave us some ideas on how to operate; at the same time it gave them some ideas on how we operate and our structure in the Marine Corps.”
Johnson said that integrating with the soldiers during the Top Gun competition was integral to the unit’s cohesion and proficiency by allowing both sides to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and what they can improve on to become better employed as a unit.
Top Gun is a way that each battery’s command can show off their Marines while continuing to train to the standard set by the regiment. Due to the fact that Rolling Thunder is a semiannual training event, the competition also gives each battery something to look forward to and strive for in the months to come before the next competition in October.