POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA, Hawaii --
Operation Spartan Fury 15.2 kicked off with a couple of bangs and a whole lot of shots.
Marines of 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment headed to Pohakuloa Training Area on Kona Island Feb. 25 and got settled into the area. It didn’t take them long before they were heading to the machine gun range to re-familiarize themselves with the weapon systems on Feb. 27, 2015.
“We’re firing a .50-caliber machine gun, an Mk-19 grenade launcher and the M240B machine gun while mounted on the ground and on a turret with gas masks,” said Maj. Jonathan Secor, Headquarters Battery commander, 1st Bn., 12th Marines.
Both Headquarters and Bravo Batteries need to be familiar with the weapons because they drive vehicles, which have these weapons on them, he said.
“These Marines never went through any specific training for these weapon systems like the infantry does,” Secor said. “We have to establish a baseline of proficiency with these guys so they can operate these weapons effectively.”
“This training really helped familiarize myself with the MK-19, the weapon I was assigned to, and other machine guns I don’t normally get a chance to use,” said Cpl. John Kahrs, a fire directional control man with Headquarters Battery, 1st Bn., 12th Marines.
The Marines were able to consolidate the weapon systems and effectively use the training time, which helped the unit overall, he said.
After the machine gun range Headquarters and Bravo Batteries went out to the field to conduct movement and displacement training. The Marines went out and laid down a position, fully equipped it, then packed it up and moved to a new position. They did this as many as two times a day and night while conducting artillery fire between movements. Artillery can’t maintain a position for long, due to the enemy’s ability to locate their position.
In between these position movements Bravo Battery fired on targets that Headquarters Battery’s fire direction center picks out.
“We have five [M777 lightweight towed howitzers] executing artillery live-fire here at [PTA],” said 1st Lt. Michael Stevens, Bravo Battery executive officer.
He said the reason they do this training is to improve the battalions overall proficiency in artillery operations.
Bravo Battery selected two howitzers from the five to conduct direct fire.
“That’s a task in combat when you have an enemy charging a position within a certain range, you lower the barrel and aim down the sights,” Stevens said.
The two teams drive into a new area and drop the howitzers, then proceed to dig in spots to ground the weapons. The recoil of the howitzer is so powerful that without digging it in and firing the weapon wouldn’t stay on target.
“In terms of hands-on experience the training we do with live-fire artillery is irreplaceable,” Stevens said.