MCAGCC, Twentynine Palms, Calif. -- Marines from 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines and 3rd Battalion, 11th Marines came home Friday after honing their combat skills for three weeks in the Combat Center's training areas.
Approximately 3,500 Marines and Sailors participated in Combined-Arms Exercise 2-03, a unique training opportunity that only the open desert of MCAGCC can provide.
"Every Marine and Sailor with whom I talked was highly-motivated, focused and felt their personal and unit readiness increased from the experience of CAX," said Col. Steven Hummer, commander, 7th Marines.
The 22-day, live-fire exercise integrates all Marine Corps weapons systems including direct fire, indirect fire and air support, forming a miniature Marine Air Ground Task Force.
"It lets us practice the way we're actually going to fight and prepares Marines for the many foreseeable and unforeseeable challenges in combat," said Capt. Jeff O'Neill, company commander, Headquarters Company, 7th Marines. "This is valuable because we, as Marines, pride ourselves on our ability to deliver and win battles."
According to O'Neill, the CAX program, run by Marines from the Tactical Training Exercise Control Group, uses a "crawl, walk, run" approach to training to ensure the combat Marines are ready to progress to the next level.
"CAX is divided into three blocks of training," said O'Neill. "Block One focused on individual and small unit fire and maneuver. Block Two builds on Block One, integrating aviation with maneuver on the ground combat element."
The Marines' skills were put to the test during the last block of training called the Final Exercise that brought all components of the MAGTF together for a three-day simulated battle.
"TTECG sets up the training so that units are able to effectively fight at each level, from platoon, company, then at the MAGTF level," said O'Neill. "In addition, during blocks one and two, we work on integrating fixed wing and rotary wind in indirect fire assets."
"All the little parts of this exercise have been practiced individually over the course of the training," said 2nd Lt. Justin Sanders, MASS-3.
According to Hummer, the exercise provides some of the most valuable training a Marine can receive.
"The frictions, in-depth coordination, battle-space management, weather and environment cannot be simulated in any wargame," said Hummer. "There's probably no training in the Marine Corps or even the other services that provides training as close to combat as this."
The training is not only beneficial to combat-arms Marines, but also the often-forgotten, behind-the-scenes Marines. Cpl. Nate Bryant, Headquarters Company, 7th Marines, is an intelligence analyst. He said his job is to know what the enemy is doing and to analyze their actions.
"CAX gives us a better understanding of our job and how it relates to the mission," said Bryant. "It really helps us to understand what has to be done when push comes to shove."
The Combat Center exists primarily to operate the live-fire, combined-arms exercise. Every year, CAX is used to train approximately 35,000 Marines and Sailors from all around the Corps.
"The TTECG and MAGTFTC are to be applauded for their incredible dedication to their mission here at Twentynine Palms and the unequaled training that they provide to the Marine Corps," said Hummer.