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Easy Co. hones infantry skills in Djibouti

By Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald | | December 31, 2002

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Marines and Sailors from Easy Company, 2d Battalion, 2d Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), currently here in support of Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, put their "hill-taking" skills to the test during live-fire training at a range here Dec. 31.

During the two-day long evolution, a platoon-sized force practiced squad and platoon tactics in a mountainous area here to sustain its infantry skills, according to Gunnery Sgt. Robert W. Brown, company gunnery sergeant.

"This range is almost as close to the real thing as you can get," said Brown, of Chattanooga, Tenn. "The only difference is we have no mortars firing, and once the Marines get closer to the objective, they would use hand grenades to clear the enemy out."

Mortars and grenades can't be used on the range because it is a "non-dud producing range," meaning weaponry that has a possibility of not exploding is prohibited. If unexploded ordnance is left behind, the local citizens could be seriously injured.

Even though the platoon had to feign mortar fire, it still unloaded a barrage of firepower during the attack.

"We have M240G machine guns, M249 SAWs (Squad Automatic Weapon) and, of course, M16s (rifles)," Brown went on the say.

For the range, the platoon broke up into three squads: two assault squads and a "decoy" machine gun squad to deceive enemy forces.

According to Brown, the small "decoy" squad sets up a position and fires to give the illusion the platoon is attacking from there; all the while, the rest of the troops are getting into place in another location.

Lance Cpl. Sibley Matchett, a rifleman with Easy Co. was part of the assault squad element.

"Once we had support fire from the machine guns, our squad broke up into teams. My team got into an elevated position to give fire support to the other team that was doing a breach," explained Matchett, of Valdosta, Ga.

During a breach, troops clear out booby traps and other obstacles the enemy may have set up, such as concertina wire or mines.

Since there were so many moving parts to the attack, the Marines used a signal system to indicate things like when machinegun fire needed to be shifted, when fire was to be ceased or when a squad was to advance.

Once the Marines reached the objective, they had to set up a defensive perimeter to simulate the possibility of a counterattack.

"Normally, we would used hand grenades when we get closer to the enemy, but since we couldn't at this range, the Marines practiced pursuit by fire," said Brown. "Since it would be dangerous to physically chase combatants down, they just use their weapons, because (the enemy) can run if they want, but they can't outrun a bullet."

As with any live-fire exercise, safety was paramount.

"If anyone goes down during the exercise, his buddy would first check to see if he's OK. Then he'll say 'corpsman up' if needed," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Ben F. Yau, an Easy Co. corpsman from New York City.

Because of the rocky terrain, most injuries suffered are minor, ranging from sprained ankles to scrapes and bruises.

After completing the evolution, company commander Capt. Winston A. Heron Jr. of Louisville, Ky., said of his Marines, "I was really pleased with the results. This training proved that there has been a lot of growth and improvement when it comes to small-unit tactics. Everybody at home should be proud of these Marines for their hard work."

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