Echo Company fires through Destined Glory

27 Oct 2000 | Cpl. Derek A. Shoemake 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Though he was wearing earplugs, the ferocious noise made LCpl. Joseph Puoplo wince just a little.

It had been more than 115 days since the Crew Chief had heard the cacophony of rounds being fired from the turret of an Amphibious Assault Vehicle.

Still, the sound was welcome by the Long Island, N.Y. native and other members of the AAV platoon. That sound meant the AAVs were taking part in a live-fire exercise, something they had not done since the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) began their deployment in July.

Giving the AAVs a chance to fire was one the many reasons Phase II of NATO's Exercise Destined Glory was valuable for each platoon within Battalion Landing Team 2/2's Echo Company, according to Capt. Darrel Benfield, the Company Commander.

"It's always good to get off the ship and train," said the Atlanta, Ga. native. "With this [phase] especially, everyone had a chance to train by practicing their raids and getting some time firing on the ranges."

The Company began the second and final phase of the multinational exercise with an assault that rolled in Echo Company Infantrymen aboard AAVs. Once they reached their position the Turkish forces, who served as the opposing element, had dismounted their vehicles. This provided a unique opportunity for the Marines.

"A dismounted infantry can be real dangerous to mechanized forces," said Benfield. "They can easily get to key areas of the vehicle because they're so mobile. So it was some great force-on-force training."

Follow-on forces joined Echo Company, like their M1-A1 Abraham's Battle Tank platoon, ending the assault. The company finished out the first day by training within the unit.

The AAV platoon practiced defense techniques, the Tank platoon trained by conducting intra-platoon attacks, while the rifle platoons of Echo Company focused on patrolling, security operations and ambushes.

For Benfield, the highlight came when the Company moved into the ranges.
This was where both the AAV and Tank Platoons had their first chance to fire during their deployment. Due to the short impact area, the M1-A1 Abraham's Battle Tanks were unable to fire their primary cannons. Instead, they fired their combat vehicles' machine guns.

Most unique was the range experience for the Company's rifle platoons.

The range called for the Marines to pass through in squads, as if on a patrol. They would take simulated fire from either side and be forced to take immediate action. Depending on the situations, the squad leader would have to choose a course of action, such as breaking contact and working his squad away from the enemy or assaulting the position. He would most often communicate to his squad through hand signals.

"This really gives me confidence in myself and my Marines," said Sgt. Lorenzo Arballo, 2nd platoon squad leader and Pleasant Ridge, Ohio native. "Training like this lets me know that with just a hand gesture I can control the situation and what's going on. Ideally, I can control the entire movement without speaking."

Benfield agreed on the importance of training the small-unit leaders.
"Normally live fire is kind of canned," said Benfield. "This range provides a little more decision making for the squad leaders. As a Company Commander, that lets me know my Marines are capable of working on their own."

Also vital to Benfield is that the training helped reinforce to his Marines the need to react quickly.

"If an enemy opens fire on Echo Company, I want them to feel like they just opened the gates of Hell, because I want fire to consume them from every direction," Benfield told his Marines before they began firing.

After their time on the range the Company spent the last days of the exercise performing more patrolling and assault maneuvers.

"I think this was awesome," said Cpl. Herman Durham, a Rifleman and Andrews, S.C. native who re-enlisted during the training evolution. "We had everybody out here firing and training together. It was motivating."