Photo Information

U.S. Marines with Battery F, Company I, Battalion Landing Team 3/8, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Regimental Combat Team 2, fire the Expeditionary Fire Support System 120mm Mortar at Combat Outpost Ouellette, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Feb. 5, 2011. The fire mission was in support of Marine snipers protecting villagers from Taliban murder and intimidation in the area. Elements of 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit deployed to Afghanistan to provide regional security in Helmand province in support of the International Security Assistance Force.

Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Bryce Piper

Mortar system goes to war, fires first combat rounds

11 Feb 2011 | Gunnery Sgt. Bryce Piper

U.S. Marines fired the first rounds using the Expeditionary Fire Support System during combat operations, Jan. 29. In support of the International Security Assistance Force, Marines with F Battery, Battalion Landing Team 3/8, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Regimental Combat Team 2, fired the new 120mm mortar system from Combat Outpost Ouellette, Helmand province, Afghanistan.

"I've got a good group of guys," said Sgt. Jason McIlwain, section chief with F Battery who was part of the team that fired the first round. The four-man team also included Cpl. Donald Schaeffer, recorder with Gun 2, Cpl. Kent Smith, gunner with Gun 2, and Lance Cpl. Gavin King, the number 1 man.

The first rounds fired from EFSS in support of combat operations was a M1105 illumination projectile, used to light an area occupied by snipers attached to Company I, BLT 3/8. Illumination denies any enemy concealment in darkness and deters nighttime emplacement of improvised explosive devices.

"We stood this battery up in March of 2009," said Gunnery Sgt. Jeremey Black, battery gunnery sergeant. Black explained that his Marines have refined their skills in the time since. "Once they get the mission on the gunline, they can fire six rounds a minute; one about every 10 or 15 seconds."

EFSS is the third leg in a triad of land-based fire support for expeditionary operations that also includes the lightweight 155mm Howitzer and high mobility artillery rocket system. The highly-mobile EFSS can be towed by ground vehicles or transported by MV-22 Osprey Tiltrotor Aircraft and CH-53E Super Stallion Helicopters, allowing expeditionary Marines with a Marine Air Ground Task Force to quickly establish supporting fires in a variety of situations.

BLT 3/8 deployed to Helmand province to establish and maintain security in support of the International Security Assistance Force. The security the Marines provide will neutralize insurgent networks and support development projects, allowing the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to foster socio-economic development in the area.

"It felt good," said McIlwain. "I'm excited to be part of history, being the first to shoot the EFSS system in combat is a good feeling."