Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California -- Marines with AAV Platoon, Company B, Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force, began their Marine Corps Operational Test and Evaluation Activity assessment at Range 500, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, March 3, 2015.
Day one consisted of the live-fire portion of the assessment for the platoon, and saw randomized crews putting rounds down range in an evolution that required all to work together as reloads were conducted and targets were destroyed.
“What we did was sit down and dug through the AAV training and readiness manual to find physically demanding tasks that individuals and crews would perform together in an operational environment,” said Capt. Joel Detrick, AAV functional test manager, MCOTEA. “We especially looked at the rear crewman and their ability to conduct combat tasks, such as getting ammo cans up and helping load rounds into the turret.”
AAVs rolled out past the firing line with an evaluated crew of a driver, turret gunner and assistant gunner aboard, making multiple stops as targets were spotted.
“After the first run through, we got a better understanding how [the range] worked and it got smoother as it went on,” said Cpl. Darin A. Bean, crew chief, AAV Platoon, Co. B, GCEITF. “Everyone helped each other out.”
Crews were randomized for the purpose of gathering data from as many variables as possible. With different crews performing the same tasks, there would be more data going toward the assessment as a whole.
Bean’s crew consisted of Lance Cpl. Nicholas Cascone, assistant gunner, and Cpl. Zachary D. Cruz, driver. Despite this being his first pairing with the Marines, he felt it made no difference in their ability to get the job done.
“None of us had been together previously, yet it really showed how we could come together,” Bean said.
As the crews assaulted targets reflecting light armored trucks and troops at distances between 500 and 1500 meters, data was steadily collected, partly from heart rate monitors worn by the platoon.
“We are tracking heart rate, accuracy on the targets, and the time it takes the (assistant gunner) to assist and complete the internal and external reloads,” Detrick said. “Data collectors in the AAVs kept track of time and recorded from inside.”
After the completion of their live-fire portion and a day of vehicle maintenance, the platoon returned to action with several crew-based stationary tasks.
The first event was breaking track, which Marines worked in teams of two to accomplish. Immediately afterwards came the task of having to manually raise the approximately 700-pound ramp door of the AAV via a ramp-jack tool.
Next, Marines were required to retrieve weapon systems and ammunition boxes filled with sand and secure their places in the AAV. Once this was complete, they moved on to their last evolution: casualty evacuation.
“These are tasks that are very physical in nature,” Detrick said.
The Marines were re-introduced to “Carl”, an approximately 200-pound dummy that required internal and external evacuation from every crew. Marines were required to pull Carl out from the turret gunner position, working in teams of up to three if necessary. Carl came equipped with an electronic head sensor that assessed any damage, giving the Marines a sigh of relief when their Carl was still in condition green for “alive.”
“It was easier than I thought it would be pulling Carl out,” said Pvt. Jordyn K. Ridgeway, driver, AAV Plt., Co. B, GCEITF. “Once my partner, the rear crewman, lifted him up to his capability, I came in to assist after calling the nine-line procedure.”
The platoon is slated to continue the assessment throughout the duration of their stay in MCAGCC, Twentynine Palms.
“This is a good opportunity for us to gather data for these tasks since some of those listed in the manual do not have a time limit like some other (military occupational specialties) do,” Detrick said. “We can take this data and refine what the requirements are to be an AAV crewman, and make the MOS better.”
From October 2014 to July 2015, the GCEITF will conduct individual and collective level skills training in designated ground combat arms occupational specialties in order to facilitate the standards-based assessment of the physical performance of Marines in a simulated operating environment performing specific ground combat arms tasks.