3/11 practices taking guns to battle via helicopter

15 Nov 2002 | Lance Cpl. Brent Walker

The Marines of Lima Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marines, took their guns into the air Nov. 6 during a training exercise in support of Combined Arms Exercise 2-03. Lima Battery demonstrated its ability to project deadly force deep into the heart of enemy territory by hauling their M198 155mm Howitzers forward via CH-53E transport helicopter, firing a quick mission, and getting out just as quickly. Leaving the ground to fire an artillery mission was a drastic change of pace for the Marines, many of whom had never before flown in a helicopter. "I was nervous at first, but once I got used to it I enjoyed the ride," said Lance Cpl. Jesse Gutierrez, L Btry. cannoneer. "I thought this was a good experience. I'm confident that if we ever had to do this in real life, we'd do pretty well." The training raid began with four helicopters ferrying in security, command and communication elements to secure a perimeter around a landing zone in the Quackenbush training area and scout out the best spots for gun emplacements. After securing the landing zone, a four-gun team from Lima Battery landed, unhooked their Howitzers and fired a 10- to 20-round mission on a specified target. The mission complete, helicopters returned to extract the artillery raiders. First Sgt. Gilbert Contreras, L Btry. 1st Sergeant, said he was pleased with the way his Marines handled the helicopter raid. "They performed extremely well," Contreras said. "Everyone hit their marks just like they were told. Once we got into position and started firing, things went like clockwork." Contreras added that he is confident that training for airborne artillery operations will come in handy in a real-world situation. "This training has been extremely valuable," Contreras said. "Most of the Marines here are relatively new, so anything out of the ordinary keeps up motivation and keeps morale high. An operation like this can be a nightmare if you don't know what you're doing. Now, in a real fight, something like this won't be new to the Marines." Lima Battery last trained for helicopter raids at MCAS Yuma, Ariz,. in 2000, underlining the fact that such training opportunities are few and far between. "It would be awesome to do this more often," said Cpl. Mark Witte, field radio operator, who also participated in the 2000 Yuma exercise. "People feel more confident. They know exactly what they're doing and what to expect."
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