MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, California -- Marines with Battery S, 5th Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, conducted an M142 HIMARS live-fire exercise at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, March 16, 2016.
“We are here so the battery can become more proficient as a unit in launcher operations as well as operating as a decentralized battery,” said 1st Lt. Austin Head, a platoon commander and fire direction officer with Battery S. “In the past we have trained as a centralized battery, being controlled by one battery operating center. This time we have two platoons operating independently.”
Head, a Long Beach, California native, added that the flexibility of each platoon increased greatly from being in a decentralized state. Being regionalized allowed platoons in the battery to operate freely and improvise their tactics and coordination in accordance with the conditions set.
Overall, HIMARS provides the battery with the ability to accurately engage long-range targets under any weather condition. The HIMARS rounds are aided by Global Positioning System technology and can travel to altitudes up to 75 kilometers and can precisely engage targets up to 40 miles away.
Although HIMARS offers these long-range capabilities, there are other aspects to consider when using them. During the exercise, Marines like Sgt. Lucas Tarnawski, a platoon operations chief with the battery would coordinate fire missions based on simulated combat situations.
“My role during this exercise can be considered the technical side of sending rockets down range,” said Tarnawski, the Lake Town, Minnesota native. “I make all the calculations to make sure the rockets land safely and I make sure the right amount of rounds are fired from the right launchers.”
The exercise not only familiarizes Marines with procedures when using HIMARS, it presents them with challenges they might face when in a combat environment.
“A challenge we typically face is communications,” said Head. “It can get very complex and difficult at times to maintain but at the same time [the capability is] extremely valuable and useful.”
The ability to accomplish the mission, while overcoming challenges can be an asset to any combat element. The pressure is on Tarnowski and other Marines with the battery to perform at a high level, both during training and in real combat scenarios.
“Worst case scenario, if I don’t do my job right or a Marine messes up someone can die,” said Tarnowski. “One of the hardest things about this is making sure you and your Marines are doing the right thing.”
The Marine Corp as a whole conducts difficult, high frequency training to properly prepare units for any circumstance. Units like 5/11, will continue to maintain readiness at all times.