CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Marines from Battalion Landing Team 3/8, 26th MEU, and their British counterparts with 29 Commando, Royal Artillery, worked side by side to conduct indirect fire from the BLT and air strikes provided by Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 266 (Rein), 26th MEU, during a Supporting Arms Coordination Exercise (SACEX), ending July 12.
The live-fire exercise was designed to test communications and fire support coordination capabilities, while also building partnerships with foreign military members as part of Exercise "Operation Auriga '10", a bilateral exercise with the United Kingdom.
During the four-day exercise, the Marines fine-tuned their supporting arms capabilities by conducting different fire support missions with 120 mm Mortars, 81 mm Mortars, AH-1W Super Cobra Attack Helicopters, UH-1N Huey Helicopters, and AV-8B Harriers.
This was a great chance to refine the Marines' abilities, explained Capt. Doug Krugman, commanding officer of Weapons Company, BLT 3/8. Krugman said it was a rare chance to not only cross-train with British allies, but also to test both services' abilities to combine arms effectively. It is this ability which will allow the Marines and commandos to succeed when supporting each other in combat, Krugman said.
The art and science of combined arms integrates mutually-supporting weapons systems in a way that to counter one, an enemy becomes more vulnerable to another (Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 1, Warfighting). For the exercise, the Marines and commandos combined both ground and air weaponry on their targets.
"We clear hardened targets right before the birds come in," said Staff Sgt. Matthew Fleury, platoon sergeant for Mortars Platoon, F Battery, BLT 3/8. Fleury went on to say the battery would resume firing as the helicopters depart.
"I think this is a good experience," said British Cpl. Daniel Travers, a bombardier with 29 Commando, Royal Artillery. He explained that in the United Kingdom, not a lot of land is available for live-fire training. Instead, civilian-owned land is used, but even that is only available a couple times a year.
While SACEX was a chance for the Marines to test their own abilities, it was also an opportunity to take a look at how the British work and for the servicemembers to glean ideas from each other.
"We got to check out what they do and the gear that they use to do it," said Fleury. "And then they came over and took a look at our gear."
Although the equipment was different, Fleury said the Marines found that they and their UK counterparts had a lot of things in common.
Overall, the exercise was considered a success by both organizations, said Krugman, who added that his Marines learned many lessons.
The Marines will have one more chance to test these lessons during the MEU's final Certification Exercise in August to affirm its deployment readiness.
The Camp Lejeune-based MEU, which is comprised of Battalion Landing Team 3/8, Combat Logistics Battalion 26, and Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 266 (Rein), is scheduled for deployment aboard USS Kearsarge, USS Ponce, and USS Carter Hall in the fall.