DJIBOUTI, Djibouti --
As the loud bangs of an M2 Browning .50 caliber machine gun echoed off the surrounding hills, the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) Marines ran, full sprint, across the open desert and into the protection of a nearby dry riverbed.
Marines with Echo Company, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 22nd MEU, conducted a live-fire platoon-attack exercise while training ashore near Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Oct. 11, 2011.
A platoon attack requires lots of preparation. The platoon will spend time tasking each squad, building terrain models, conducting reconnaissance, and rehearsing the plan.
It is a highly coordinated event, consisting of many different parts that test small-unit leadership. Squads move into different positions, machine-gun positions provide covering fire, and the platoon commander must also be cognizant of varied fire-support elements.
“Having good coordination is the most challenging part,” said Cpl. Clay C. Johnson, a squad leader with Echo Company and Bruceton Mills, W. Va., native. “You have two adjacent squads, you have support-by-fire positions, you have motors, and you have to coordinate will all these different assets.”
As the Marines advanced through the range they shouted commands to each other as some established support-by-fire positions and others continued up the riverbed to flank the objective.
“I thought my guys did fantastic,” said 1st Lt. Gerard T. Marin, a platoon commander with Echo Company and Southlake, Texas, native. “The mental and physical toughness they displayed was something that I can be proud of.”
The Marines advanced across the rocky desert, using the protection of the various dry riverbeds, as forward observers acting as liaisons for air and indirect fire support watched from a nearby mountaintop.
A range-wide, cease-fire was called as the furthest-forward Marines reached and cleared the objective. Then, after confirming all Marines and gear were accounted for, the platoon walked back to the staging point for a much needed break.
“It was a good range,” said Lance Cpl. Wes W. Lanier, a rifleman with Echo Company and Marietta, Ga., native. “It was realistic to what we’d be in, in a combat environment. It’s good to do exercises like that to give your platoon a platform to know how they would do in a real situation.”
The Marines of Echo Company took the opportunity to conduct platoon-level training to develop experience and maintain readiness when they are needed.
“It’s vital for the junior Marines to see the entire platoon come together and execute something on this scale successfully,” said Marin. “It breeds confidence in their squad leaders and team leaders, and it builds confidence themselves.”
The 22nd MEU is currently deployed as part of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (BATARG) as the U.S. Central Command theatre reserve force, also providing support for maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.