CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- When the 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) hits the beach, it makes sure to bring its big guns with them.
During the MEU's last two exercises, the Expeditionary Strike Group Exercise (ESGEX) in Eglin, Fla., and the Special Operations Capable Exercise (SOCEX) here at Camp Lejeune, Golf Battery has continued to train in preparation for its upcoming deployment.
Golf Battery is primarily responsible for providing artillery support for the 22d MEU. Using the M198 medium towed howitzer, a 155mm cannon with an effective range of fourteen miles, Golf Battery provides deadly fire support for the Marines of Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines (BLT 1/6).
However, for much of the pre-deployment training plan, Golf Battery has been spent a lot of time behind smaller weapons assisting BLT 1/6. Between the Non-lethal Weapons Course, a brief stint on the rifle range and providing security for various training missions, there hasn't been much time for them to focus on gun slinging. Prior to ESGEX, the last time the battery fired its howitzers was in October, and ESGEX and SOCEX provided a welcome change back to the routine.
"With the MEU, we've been doing grunt stuff," said Gunnery Sgt. William Frye, Golf Battery's battery gunnery sergeant. "This gives us a chance to get back to our specialty."
Not only did Eglin provide the first chance to dust off the cannons, it provided the Battery a new place to fire. Usually limited to firing aboard Camp Lejeune, Twenty Nine Palms, Calif. (during Combined Arms Exercise), and occasionally Fort Bragg, N.C., Eglin gave the Marine Corps a much-needed change of scenery.
However beneficial being able to get away from Camp Lejeune was, escaping North Carolina winter weather proved a harder challenge. Despite Florida's reputation as being sunny and warm year-round, Marines faced temperatures dipping into the 30's and days of constant rain.
"The Marines did very well considering the weather," said Frye. "They pulled through in spite of the rain."
Bad weather is something the battery is used to.
"Golf Battery brings the bad weather wherever they go," jokingly lamented Cpl. Brett Napton, a Kansas City, Mo., native who works as a ammunition team chief. "I expected warmer weather. The worst part is putting up with the weather and elements in the field."
The cold followed the Battery from Florida to North Carolina for SOCEX. When after performing an Embassy Reinforcement mission, the Battery fired for a day after debarking from ship. In spite of a wind chill factor again dipping to the 30's, Golf Battery continued to answer the call for fire.
When the fire direction center broadcasted a mission to the gunline, each gun crew immediately stopped whatever they're doing and listened to which gun was getting the chance throw some rounds downrange. The designated gun crews immediately sprung into action. Crews skipped over feel left out somehow, grudgingly standing by for the next mission. For the Marines of Golf Battery, pulling the lanyard that triggers the powder blast is the best part of the job.
"It's a rush," said Lance Corporal Waylon Hunt, of Pike County, Ky., a Golf Battery artilleryman. "It's very hard to describe. I really don't hear the blast. It's the adrenaline."
Landing a round on target may be a rush for the Marines, but the support the battery provides is more than a feeling. The fire support that artillery provides gives the MEU the versatility to soften up targets, reducing potential threats to the infantry. The battery can also eliminate air defense sites that could threaten friendly aircraft. With Golf Battery on call, BLT 1/6 can know that aboard Camp Lejeune, at Eglin AFB, or on foreign soil, help will always be on target.
The 22d MEU is scheduled to deploy mid-February aboard the amphibious assault ships WASP, WHIDBEY ISLAND, and SHREVEPORT as part of Expeditionary Strike Group 2 aboard the USS WASP. In addition to BLT 1/6, the 22d MEU consists of its Command Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 (Reinforced), and MEU Service Support Group 22.
For more information on the mission, organization and status of the 22d MEU, visit the unit's web site at www.22meu.usmc.mil.