MARINE AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, California -- Marines with Light Armored Vehicle Platoon, Company B, Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force, officially began the Marine Corps Operational Test and Evaluation Activity assessment at Range 500, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, March 10, 2015.
Following suit with Tank Platoon and Amphibious Assault Vehicle Platoon, the Marines were observed as they engaged targets with their 25 mm M242 Bushmaster chain guns, equipped with high-explosive and armor-piercing rounds. Keeping with the procedures of the assessment, each Marine wore a heart rate monitor to track individual data.
“Today is a preparation for combat tasks,” said Capt. Ben Gallo, LAV functional test manager, Marine Corps Operational Test and Evaluation Activity. “It’s what you would expect to have to do to make sure your vehicle is ready for a fight. Then we’re moving into live-fire tasks that were pulled from table six of the LAV gunnery manual.”
The exercise was modified to include a misfire drill; further challenging crews as they were faced with the unpredictability of having a weapon system go down during an engagement, and having to get it back up again.
In addition, crews were randomized, with a different vehicle commander leading a random gunner and driver throughout the engagement for the purpose of data collectors having as many variables to record as possible.
“I think it’s good for everybody to learn how other Marines work and see the differences,” said Cpl. Benjamin Alexander, vehicle commander, LAV Plt., Co. B, GCEITF. “I volunteered because it’s a new experience. I want to challenge myself and challenge other Marines.”
During the live-fire portion of the assessment, crews worked together to assault targets ranging from 900-1,500 meters away in offensive and defensive engagements requiring them to quickly maneuver the LAV up a berm to fire, and then quickly return back down to the defense. Crews concluded the exercise with a retrograde engagement, in which they moved backward on the range while still firing.
“There’s a lot of rigor that went into ensuring that the data collectors and the platoon itself understand the purpose behind all of the tasks that we picked out,” Gallo said. “We worked very closely with the company and platoon staff to get it right and make sure we capture the right things.”
Following a day of vehicle maintenance, the platoon tackled a variety of stationary, crew-based tasks, the first of which was a crew evacuation that had Marines hastily jump off of their vehicles and sprint to a simulated safe zone. Then they conducted the task again, but this time with a simulated casualty incapable of escaping alone.
“The way we designed the test is to identify basic crew tasks that are the most physically demanding for the 0313 (LAV crewman) military occupational specialty,” Gallo said.
The casualty is a 200-pound dummy that required two Marines to be lifted out of the gunner’s hole of the LAV and to a casualty evacuation zone several meters away. Marines had to handle the simulated casualty with explicit care and not disturb the motion sensor attached to his head. Any hard drops or bumps and the motion sensor would shift from green to red, simulating that the casualty did not survive the evacuation.
“I joined this unit because I don’t like being told what I cannot do,” said Lance Cpl. Brittany R. Dunklee, gunner, LAV Plt., Co. B, GCEITF. “Knowledge is power, with another MOS to learn comes more skills.”
Next, Marines conducted two separate vehicle recoveries, the first by winching two LAVs together, and the second attaching a tow bar to a downed LAV, and the operating one pulling it out of a pinch, as could be expected in an operating environment.
“These are tasks that simulate pulling a vehicle and its crew back into the fight,” Gallo added.
Marines finished their assessment by removing and re-installing the armored-plating found on the rear crew doors, and changing out one of the eight tires on their vehicle.
“Our data collectors went through a lot of training to ensure they are capturing the proper metrics,” Gallo said. “The one other thing is the qualitative data that we hope to get when we talk to the platoon and staff at the end of every trial.”
The platoon will continue their assessment cycle, all the while providing data for MCOTEA, during the duration of their stay at Range 500.
“Light Armored Reconnaissance is not just an MOS, but a great family,” Dunklee said. “I’m honored to work with these Marines and see this experiment through.”
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.