Fire Support Teams Prepare for Deployment

16 Mar 2011 | Cpl. Dwight A. Henderson

Marines with Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted a three-day fire support capabilities exercise aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., March 16, 2011.

The exercised provided training for the fire support teams who coordinate close-air and indirect-fire support for the companies.

“This training is pretty important,” said Lance Cpl. Edgar Nava, an artillery forward observer and Huntington Beach, Calif., native, with Echo Company, BLT 2/2. “It keeps our target acquisition skills sharp and it gets the rust off our transmissions and drills so we don’t mess up.”

The team is composed of a forward air controller or joint terminal air controller, artillery forward observer, a mortar forward observer and a fire support team leader.

The three-day exercise had the Marines working with AV-8B Harriers, AH-1 Cobras, and UH-1 Hueys from Marine Medium Tilt Rotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced).  They also worked with 81mm mortars from Weapons Company and 120mm mortars from Lima Battery, both with BLT 2/2.

The sound of mortar rounds echoed throughout the range as dust and debris flew into the air.  Jets streaked across the sky as they dropped training bombs on marked targets.

“When we’re blowing stuff up, this job is pretty sweet,” said Nava. “Who else gets up here and told alright you’re going to blow this stuff up?”

The Marines previously worked with indirect-fire support, but this was the first time they had the chance to work with close-air support.

“It’s important for us to do it with air assets because we find a lot of friction points and we mitigate those issues,” said 1st Lt. James K. Turner, a platoon commander and FiST leader for Easy Company, and Bedford, N.H., native. 

The fire support teams also mitigate potential problems inherent to working with so many assets.  They ensure aircraft are at a safe distance or elevation when the indirect-fire assets are firing.

“Being a FiST leader is like being a maestro up on the hill,” said Turner. “Using the right asset at the right time and de-conflicting correctly.”

The Marines carefully plot and call in targets. They use mortars and artillery to suppress targets or mark targets for air assets providing support to the maneuvering companies.

“Maneuvering without fires is suicide and fires without maneuvers are useless,” said Turner.

The Marines are experts at land navigation, map work and mathematics, which all play a pivotal role in the capabilities of a fire support team.

“I’m very confident in our ability to operate,” said Turner.

This training makes the fire support teams an invaluable asset as the Marines prepare to deploy where they can find themselves executing any number of missions.

The Marines and sailors of the 22nd MEU are currently deployed with Amphibious Squadron 6 aboard the USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and will continue to train and test the MEU’s ability to operate as a cohesive and effective Marine Air Ground Task Force.

The 22nd MEU is a multi-mission capable force comprised of Aviation Combat Element, Marine Tilt Rotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; and its Command Element.

22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit