Fort Bragg, N.C. --
Marines with 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division came together for exercise Rolling Thunder, a biannual training evolution in which Marines can hone in on their artillery skills, combat readiness and proficiency aboard Fort Bragg, North Carolina, April 28 through May 16, 2014.
Sergeant Enrique Cruz, a platoon sergeant with Golf Battery, 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, said that the exercise incorporates many aspects of 10th Marines from the battery to regimental level.
“Operation Rolling Thunder is an exercise to integrate every capability of an artillery regiment, such as the logistics side, the firing side and now we are bringing in and training with this new weapon system, so it’s a pretty wide scale event,” said Cruz.
Marines with Golf Battery, 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division improved technical and tactical proficiency by training with a new weapons system during operation Rolling Thunder, May 8, 2014.
The new weapons system is the M-327 120mm towed rifled mortar expeditionary fire support system.
Second Lieutenant Stephen Waite, a platoon commander with Golf Battery, said that the weapons system helps aid the Marines maintain fire capability in support of maneuver elements.
“It’s the artillery’s newest piece of equipment and it’s meant to be more expeditionary. The system is meant to be able to load into assault amphibious vehicles, ospreys, get to the firing position, become fire capable and fire more rounds quicker in support of other elements,” said Waite.
Cruz said that the mortar varies from the more familiar M777 lightweight 155mm howitzer in size, how rapidly the weapon is emplaced compared to the already hasty howitzer, the caliber of ammunition fired through each weapon and the fact that the mortar is a much shorter ranged weapon.
Along with becoming more proficient with the weapon system, the Marines also were afforded the opportunity to train with Marines from Delta Company, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 2nd Marine Division.
The integration with the AAVs showcased another way to bring fire support to the battlefield. The expenditure of AAVs helps get units from ship to shore in a timely manner, and incorporating this means of travel in the training hones in on the capabilities afforded with the vehicles.
“The mortars have been moved with internally transportable vehicles, towed behind Humvees, they’ve been lifted by helicopters and now they’re just trying to see how they work along with AAVs,” said Cruz.
Through incorporation of the AAVs and mortars, Waite said that this specific training proved to be a beneficial experience for the Marines from both Golf Battery and 2nd AA Bn.
“This training is going to benefit them in the fact that they haven’t had much time on the weapon system with live ammunition so it gives the leadership and noncommissioned officers a chance to show their Marines exactly what the ammunition looks like, how to use it and all of the procedures to make that weapon fire," said Waite.
Waite said that the training conducted throughout Rolling Thunder and especially with the AAVs facilitated unit cohesion and proficiency due to the Marines being in the field together, conducting 24-hour operations together, being uncomfortable in hot and cold weather and learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses to become better employed.
Cruz said that the training was beneficial and an important part of sustainment and integration for the Marines.
“In artillery, repetition is key so the fact that we’re getting out here just to practice in a different environment is really important,” said Cruz.
Just like with any skill, practice makes perfect. Marines a part of 10th Marines can continue to sustain their knowledge and proficiency of the weapons system, along with sustained camaraderie and unit cohesion in October during the next evolution of Rolling Thunder.