Tanks, 1/7 join forces, participate in field exercise

26 Jan 2001 | LCpl. Brent Walker

While others focus on individualism, the Marine Corps accomplishes it's missions by continuing to focus on good, old-fashioned teamwork."D" Co., 1st Tank Bn. joined infantry Marines from "C" Co., 1st Bn., 7th Marines for a weekend field exercise in MCAGCC's rugged Noble Pass and Rainbow Canyon training areas Jan. 19-21. The live-fire exercise saw "D" Co. tankers and "C" Co. infantrymen support each other during a series of attacks against simulated enemy bunkers and armored vehicles."Everything in the Marine Corps revolves around supporting the infantry," said GySgt. Eckhard Schulz, "D" Co. tank leader. "It's nice to get the chance to work with the infantry outside a Combined Arms Exercise environment.""This is the first time in recent memory we've done tank/infantry operations in a restricted environment," said Capt. David Sylvester, "D" Co. commanding officer. He explained that the hilly, rocky terrain simulates the environment Marines would face in areas of operation such as Korea."When I was here as a lieutenant several years ago, we'd always discussed joining an infantry unit for a 'Korean' assault course, but because of all our other obligations we were never able to put it together," Sylvester said.Schulz said "D" Co. tankers have worked with infantry units at Camp Pendleton's Military Operations in Urban Terrain facility in the past."Noble Pass is a lot like a MOUT environment," Schulz said. "We're used to working in an open environment where you just get on line and rock and roll toward the target. You just can't operate in restricted terrain without the infantry there with you."The field exercise was the first time many in the infantry had taken part in this sort of inter-unit training.SSgt. Charles Boschee, "C" Co. platoon sergeant, said the company has picked up about 50 new Marines in the last two weeks who are taking part in only their first or second field exercise. The new riflemen had never seen tanks in operation before, much less trained side-by-side with them."This was a good learning experience for the new Marines," Boschee said. "You get better the more you do it."Young Marines agreed that the operation was a good experience builder. The exercise also illustrated the real-world destructive power of the M1A1 Abrams, which some in the infantry had only seen on television."I think this exercise destroyed a lot of the myths some of the new Marines had about tank operations," Sylvester said. "Now they understand how well a tank can support them in a close fight.""We learned that in combat, we can rely on tanks, and tanks can rely on us," said PFC Grady Fowles, 18, of Austin, Texas, and "C" Co. rifleman.Another "C" Co. infantryman, PFC Jeffrey Roy, 18, of Enfield, Conn., said the operation enforced teamwork principals and taught young Marines to trust their fellow Devil Dogs even though they'd never trained together before."We learned we need to trust both the people in our platoon and the Marines in the tanks," Roy said. "We know that they'll shift fire when they're supposed to and cease fire when we get near the target. It's a big trust thing."Sylvester said that while operating in close terrain is unusual for tankers, both they and the infantry adapted well."Good combat reporting is essential both from infantry platoon commanders and from tank commanders," Sylvester said. "With good information, the company commander can control the fight even though he can't see all the action because of the terrain."Since the commander is unable to see the whole battle, much of the responsibility for victory rests in the hands of NCOs and junior officers, Sylvester said. "That's the Marine Corps warfighting philosophy," Sylvester said. "It lends itself to this kind of fight. If they waited for me to make every decision, nothing would happen."Both tank and infantry personnel agreed that as the units got used to working together, the attacks went much more smoothly."Everything went really well," Shulz said of the field exercise. "I think we learned a lot, and I think the infantry learned a lot. I hope we can do it again.""The bottom line is we need to do this kind of training a lot more often," Sylvester said.
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