By Cpl. Michael Dye, II Marine Expeditionary Force
The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory/Future Directorate conducted a limited objective experiment, with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment and 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, Dec. 3-11, 2015, aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The experiment was designed to evaluate a proposal to improve how direct support artillery can support dispersed forces.
The construct of the infantry was a company landing team, an idea based on a battalion landing team. A battalion landing team is comprised of three or more infantry companies that make up the ground combat element of an expeditionary fighting force, along with multiple other platoon level enablers. An artillery battery falls under the GCE, which supports the BLT with indirect fire.
The experiment broke down the BLT into three company landing teams. Each CLT was assigned an artillery platoon of two weapons from the battery. To best examine the concept, three types of artillery weapons were used that offered distinctly different characteristics.
“The concept of what we are trying to accomplish out here is how we are going to employ and integrate artillery elements in direct support of an infantry company landing team,” said Capt. Jay Dodge, the artillery training school director for 10th Regiment and the lead artillery planner for the experiment. “We are now testing a shift from the traditional way of fighting artillery and infantry, by providing a direct support artillery element to the infantry.”
This operational concept is designed to find ways to make infantry and artillery a more versatile fighting force in any environment.
“This is the first time we’ve done a live-force experiment using this concept,” said Capt. Jerald Feehery, a project officer for MCWL/FD. “What we are testing right now is what tactics, techniques and procedures we can draw, and incorporate them into the Fleet Marine Forces and how to make it possible.”
The experiment allowed for an artillery platoon to be in direct support of an infantry company. Normally, an artillery battery is in direct support to a BLT. The experiment also let the artillery platoon experiment with different howitzer systems in order to evaluate potentially useful weapons for this type of integration.
Three different types of weapon systems were used while conducting the experiment: The M777A2 155mm howitzer, the M327 120mm mortar, and the Army’s M119A3 105mm howitzer.
Integrating these two fighting forces in theory is an easy task; however throughout the week, MCWL/FD found several challenges that proved otherwise.
“One of the challenges was the equipment, such as the Army’s M119A3 howitzer, is not something the Marine Corps uses, so operating the equipment effectively was difficult for the artillery guys, however they did an exceptional job,” said Maj. David Klomp, an Australian exchange officer and the Head of Plans for the Experiment Division of MCWL/FD. “This is just a small snap-shot of how we might integrate the artillery into infantry company landing teams, and it is very challenging knowing that there are several different ways to conduct operations.”
Although the tactics used do not follow any current standard operating procedures in the Marine Corps, MCWL/FD personnel provided guidance which allowed them to gather the information and data needed to formulate new tactics techniques and procedures for the Marine Corps to evaluate.
“For the young Marines and sailors out here supporting this [experiment], I think it’s great for them to be able to break out of their normal routine of doing things,” Dodge said. “All of them really did do a great job.”
Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune