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Echo brings the heat

US Marine Corps News

By Lance Cpl. Jeff Drew, 2nd Marine Division

FORT A.P.HILL, Va. -- The Marines of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment donned their flak jackets and Kevlar helmets in the early morning and gathered at the vehicle drop-off point of Range 24, here, recently. Excitement was in the air as the Marines prepared for an all out company assault on simulated enemy targets and compounds.

“This is as close as we’ll get to what we’ll be doing in Afghanistan,” said Gunnery Sgt. David B. Tomlinson, the company gunnery sergeant for Company E. “Coordinating with outside units is probably the biggest thing we get from this. Being able to see what all of the people attached to the company can do for you. We have the engineers here, we have the snipers, we have the heavy guns, and we have mortars. We are able to see what they bring when everyone comes to the fight.”

Moving from the vehicle drop-off point, 1st platoon diligently patrolled along roads and through the woods until they approached an open area. From their vantage point, scout snipers were able to pinpoint targets while machine gunners offered suppressive fire with the M240 Machine gun, and the M72A7 Light Anti-tank Weapon. With rockets flying on target, and Marines successfully suppressing the simulated enemy, engineers attached to the unit were able to pull through and accomplish their mission.

“The engineers will be going to an obstacle located downrange,” said Lance Cpl. James T. Hofelich, a combat engineer attached to the company. “Engineers will take the APOBS (anti-personnel obstacle breaching system) downrange. We have a mine field down there so it’s going to clear a path through it about half a meter wide; a foot path so infantry Marines can push through. Then the second team will go through and mark the lane, marking the blast craters with tape so that the Marines have a path to follow that is safe and clear. Two engineers will be marking the exit and directing traffic and two will mark the entrance, making sure everyone stays on the tape.”

One hundred and eight grenades detonated simultaneously causing a massive blast to echo and dust to fill the air, evidence of the explosive capabilities of the APOBS. With a path through the imitation mine field cleared, the Marines of 1st platoon as well as engineers and snipers ran to the secondary position taking out all targets in their way. They now had a better view of their main objective and were able to fire directly upon their intended target.

As the Marines fired countless rounds downrange, 2nd platoon took up a secondary firing position and 3rd platoon went in for the kill. Company E easily secured the main enemy compounds thanks to the proactive actions and collaborative efforts of its Marines. Once the objectives were secure, the Marines headed back to the vehicle drop-off point to discuss how they reacted during the live-fire exercise.

“I’d say as a whole they learned to operate a lot better together,” said Sgt. Chris L. Parks, a squad leader for 3rd squad, 1st platoon. “Instead of having to tell everyone what to do, they understood their fellow Marines. There are still individual actions that need to be improved on, but they know how to operate better together as a team.”

The exercise offered the Marines of Company E the opportunity to work together with different attachments in order to see how they can be beneficial in battle. Using positive communication techniques and each attached unit to their prescribed purpose, the company assault acted as an accurate representation of what might be seen on deployment.

"We worked up from the squad level to the platoon level and finally to a company level and success is all about communication,” said Sgt. Marshall W. Kennedy a squad leader for 2nd Squad, 1st Platoon. “You also try to utilize all your assets as much as possible to overwhelm the enemy, it definitely worked out and today all our mission objectives were met.”

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