Photo Information

An anti-tank missileman with Combined Anti-Armor Team (CAAT) Red within Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2/1, the ground combat element for the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, perfoms pre-fire inspections on a Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided (TOW) Missile before he and fellow Marines practice hunter-killer techniques on Aug. 21, 2015. The CAAT, composed of heavy machine gunners and anti-tank missilemen, is used to combat hardened targets as well as provide security.

Photo by Sgt. Paris Capers

13th MEU CAATs pack one-two punch

21 Sep 2015 | Sgt. Paris Capers 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit

“Our 2 O’clock, vehicle in the open, 900 meters out, on my command: fire!”

An M2 .50 caliber machine gun roars to life, sucking up linked rounds and spitting a stream of lead, pinning the target down. At the same time, one hundred meters up the ridge, another HUMVEE grinds into position and sights in on the target. A Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided (TOW) missileman checks behind him for friendlies. He fires and, using wires, he guides the high explosives with deadly precision.

“Impact: target destroyed!” He shouts, and before the sparks could settle, the hunter-killer team has left the scene, searching for the next enemy.

U.S. Marines with Combined Anti-Armor Teams (CAAT) within Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2/1, the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s ground combat element, conducted sustainment training as part of a pre-deployment package Aug. 21, 2015 to refine their skills and teamwork for an upcoming deployment.

“Sometime in the last twenty years, someone realized our machine gunners and misslemen – huge assets to the battalion— were even more effective when employed together,” said 1st Lt. James Lynch, commander of CAAT Blue. “Together they could cover one another as a hunter-killer team.”

According to Lynch, the hunter-killer concept is successful because of the heavy fire provided by the machine gunners and the raw stopping power packed with the misslemen. The machine gunners act as the lead, marking a target and drawing fires in the “hot position” while the missilemen, from a nearby “cold position” deliver the final blow to armored enemies.

The Marines would usually hone their skills through supervised repetition, using the fiberglass shells of spent missiles in lieu of the genuine article, but the 13th MEU’s CAAT was given the rare opportunity to conduct live-fire training with missiles.

“As the belt tightens, whenever we get live missiles to fire we have to make them count,” said Cpl. Benjamin Mayberry, a missleman and safety officer for the training. “By building good and safe habits, we can avoid having to ‘dump’ a missile because it was flying an unsafe path or was improperly inspected. Each wasted missile is wasted experience for our guys and wasted taxpayer dollars.”

The one-two punch of the CAATs machine gunners and misslemen combined with their ability to continue training even in stringent times makes them another asset the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit has in its toolbox to remain ready, responsive and relevant in any clime and place.