By Sgt. Jen S. Martinez, III Marine Expeditionary Force
COMBINED ARMS TRAINING CENTER CAMP FUJI, SHIZUOKA, Japan -- Okinawa based Marines began preparing for artillery live-fire training with a command post exercise on mainland Japan’s iconic Mount Fuji Oct. 30-31.
The Marines are with Battery I, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment; and Battery B, 1st Battalion, 12th Marines currently assigned to 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, under the unit deployment program, and are participating in the Artillery Relocation Training Program 14-3 at Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji.
In 1996, the Special Action Committee on Okinawa called a cease to artillery live-fire training on Okinawa and developed ARTP the following year to allow Marines to use ranges on mainland to maintain readiness.
“The exercise enables us to increase our combat readiness and ability to provide fire support to any support-and-maneuver element,” said Lt. Col. Neil J. Owens, a Medford, Massachusetts native and the commanding officer of 3rd Bn., 12th Marines. “At the same time, it enables us to adhere to our obligations under the U.S. and Japan mutual defense cooperation treaty.”
During the exercise, Marines prepared communication lines between the fire direction center and M777A2 lightweight 155 mm howitzer teams. Gun teams also used this opportunity to troubleshoot their weapons before moving to the live-fire portion of ARTP.
“The (exercise) helps prepare the fire direction center, and our howitzers, so whenever we go out to the field we know what the problems are here,” said Sgt. Glennray Jimenez, a Humble, Texas native and an artillery section chief with Battery I. “It allows us to fix them here, instead of trying to troubleshoot it in the field.”
The FDC plays a vital part in ensuring artillery cannoneers hit their mark, according to Jimenez.
Forward observers determine the range and locations of the targets, and the FDC plots those locations and instructs cannoneers to adjust for elevation and deflection.
“If I tell the FDC the wrong position on the map, and I’m 1000 meters off, I’m going to end up shooting with the wrong charge and elevation, and I’m going to impact the wrong area,” said Jimenez.
During the next three weeks, the Marines will engage in command-and-control missions, practice maneuvering batteries and maintain proficiency with crew-served weapons and medium-towed weapons, under moderate to extreme cold weather conditions.
“Camp Fuji provides that cold weather training environment that artillery units need to be familiar with,” said Sgt. Maj. Marvin M. Magcale, an Artesia, California native and the battalion sergeant major of 3rd Bn., 12th Marines. “The Marines and sailors in this battalion will be better prepared to accomplish the mission involving cold weather. Austere conditions obviously affect not only the Marines and sailors, but their equipment as well.”
ARTP 14-3 enhances Marines’ proficiency in their respective fields and takes advantage of cold-weather training, according to Magcale.
“Ultimately, what it all comes down to is ensuring that we maintain combat ready forces throughout the pacific for any contingency that comes up or to help any ally who request our assistance,” said Owens.