Artillery in air; Landing support platoon facilitates artillery retrograde
By Cpl. Christopher J. Moore, I Marine Expeditionary Force
Marines with Landing Support Platoon, Truck Support Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 5, conducted helicopter support team training with an M777 Howitzer during Exercise Steel Knight 2015, Dec. 9.
The exercise helped develop the level of cohesion needed to allow the air and ground units to rapidly deploy the howitzer, improving the combined team’s reaction time and precision. The ability to deploy the weapon system and engage targets in a timely manner is essential in a combat environment.
Ideally, a well-trained team is capable of dropping off equipment and crews who can then engage targets within five to 10 minutes.
“The purpose of this training is to simulate howitzers doing a bounding effect,” said Sgt. David Powell, helicopter support team commander with Truck Support Co. “So, if all the guns are on line firing and they want to advance, instead of hauling them across harsh terrain with trucks, we can move those guns forward with a helicopter and keep driving the enemy back.”
During the exercise, a CH-53E Super Stallion hovered over the almost 10,000-pound artillery system where the landing support team waited to attach the gun to the helicopter. Once secure, the helicopter transported the gun to a new location. Within minutes, the gun crew was ready to fire on new targets.
“This kind of training gives us variety in our tactics,” said 1st Lieutenant Samuel Kang, the landing support platoon commander, and a native of Valencia, Calif. “It gives the Marine Corps the options it needs to outperform its enemies.”
One of Powell’s main focuses is that the Marines on the ground and in the air are not in any danger of being injured.
“We have millions of dollars worth of equipment underneath the helicopter, as well as the helicopter support team and the gun crew,” said Powell, a native of Farmville, Ariz. “We’re not only watching out for gear, we’re watching out for people’s lives.”
If a chain holding the howitzer breaks or equipment is dropped inadvertently, the Marines on the ground could be endangered. Additionally, any gear that inadvertently comes in contact with the ground could endanger both the aircraft and the crew inside.
Pilots and their crew regularly brief each other on emergency procedures and any potential hazards such as inclement weather or ground obstacles. Each time the helicopter lands, Marines on the ground are also given safety guidelines to help maintain the speed and precision necessary to execute lift missions.
Accuracy during such exercises promotes precision and minimal errors during real-life missions. Continuous joint air-ground training maintains readiness and effectiveness future missions.