MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, NORTH CAROLINA --
On May 27th, as part of 2d Marine Division’s (2d MARDIV) mission to achieve advanced combat readiness, Marines and Sailors from 2d Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment (2/8), 2d MARDIV, successfully capped off their Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation (MCCRE) with three night, company-supported, non-illuminated, live-fire attacks, earning them “apex battalion” status.
The term apex represents the most competent, capable, and lethal a unit can be, according to Maj. Gen. Francis Donovan, commanding general, 2d MARDIV. He continued, “apex status is the desired end state for 2d MARDIV units as they progress through their pre-deployment training program, making them immediately employable by their gaining command once deployed.”
To achieve “apex status,” each of 2/8’s rifle companies – Echo, Fox and Golf – conducted their night, combined-arms supported, non-illuminated, live-fire attacks using weaponry ranging from M27 Infantry Automatic Rifles, M320 grenade launchers, and M240 medium machine guns, to M224 60 mm and M252 81 mm mortar systems, M2A1 .50 caliber heavy machine guns, and MK153 83 mm Shoulder-Launched Multipurpose Assault Weapons (SMAW), on Camp Lejeune’s newest and most complex live-fire range, Company Battle Course G-36.
“The key factor here is that we’ve added company-supported, night live-fire operations on to the MCCRE—which are tactically challenging and very demanding,” Donovan said, regarding the non-illuminated attacks. “You can’t get there unless you’ve done everything right over the previous six months. Tactical competence at all echelons is critical to successful execution of complex company-level, live-fire actions at night.”
Years before focusing on the generation of apex battalion task forces, units training on Camp Lejeune were limited by range infrastructure which consisted of smaller, more restrictive ranges that only supported up to platoon-sized attacks.
“I’m ready to say to a gaining command, a MEU (Marine Expedition Unit) commander, a fleet commander, or the 3rd MARDIV commander (when a 2d MARDIV battalion deploys as part of the Unit Deployment Program to Okinawa), ‘you’re getting an apex battalion task force that can be employed immediately upon arrival, and they can fight at night,’” he said.
Completing this complex, company-supported, night attack marks a significant milestone for the Marines and Sailors of 2/8 and 2d MARDIV units going forward.
“On the modern battlefield, Marines will have no choice but to fight at night, as our adversaries can and will fight effectively at night, and a force that cannot cope with darkness will lose this battle,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Joshua Smith, the 2d MARDIV Gunner. “When conducting night attacks, the ability to command and control supporting arms immediately comes to mind.”
Gunnery Sgt. Jeremy Barrett, the company gunnery sergeant for Echo Company, 2/8, explained how “brilliance in the basics” and a professional mentality contributed to the success of the live-fire training.
“The fundamentals of fire-and-movement, battle drills, and supported/supporting relationships are the bedrock of our success, both at ITX (Integrated Training Exercise) and in Camp Lejeune,” Barrett said. “The Marines continued to drive, even after a seven-week ITX, because of the leadership and small-unit discipline the company developed through months of hard, realistic training.”
Sgt. Sam Griffith, a squad leader with Echo Company, 2/8, emphasized how challenges faced during the night attacks on G-36 benefitted his platoon.
“This training added value to the way our Marines currently train, and will train into the future, because it was more dynamic repetition (of combined arms employment),” explained Griffith. “It gives our unit another opportunity to combat possible scenarios. As a small-unit leader, you have to [identify and address multiple problem sets on the fly, fix them] and, then debrief lessons learned from the mistakes you may have made.”
This was not a one-man effort. Ensuring the safety of Marines, under some of the most demanding operations and conditions, requires significant planning and preparation.
“This training, coupled with a respect for the (Marines’ and Sailors’) time, and genuine care for their welfare, resulted in a group of Marines that were willing to commit to excellence every single day,” said Barrett. “It was not easy, but, ultimately, the Marines were able to see the results of their hard work and earn apex status.”
Imagery of the training event is available at the DVIDS link below. For more information about the event, please contact 2nd Lt. Paul Ortiz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 2DMARDIVONTHERECORD@usmc.mil.
For imagery and video of the event, please visit
Official Website: https://www.2ndmardiv.marines.mil/