Photo Information

Three observers with Mike Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, watch for incoming artillery rounds at the Combat Center's Quackenbush training area Jan. 30.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Michael S. Cifuentes

Mike Battery, 3/11, call for destruction in the Combat Center training area

30 Jan 2006 | Lance Cpl. Michael S. Cifuentes

The Combat Center’s Quackenbush training area was devastated with explosions Jan. 30 to Feb. 3 during a tactical air control party shoot, conducted by students from the Expeditionary Warfare Training Group Pacific and Mike Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment’s liaisons.The devastation was a result of an array of heavy ammunition drops and fires on different targets in the Quackenbush Valley.An AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter fired missiles at the targets, followed by a UH-1N Huey Helicopter shooting .50 caliber rounds from it’s mounted GAU-16 .50 caliber machine gun. Streaking through the sky F/A-18D Hornets, swooped toward their targets and dropped heavy ammunitions. Mike Battery, 3/11, played a significant role in the destruction. The battery shot rounds from their M777 Lightweight Howitzers creating ruins on the terrain and demolishing the steel targets, which were unserviceable battle tanks.Looking on at the chaos created in the Quackenbush valley were the students from EWTGPac, learning and calling in firing missions, as Mike Battery liaisons, acted as the fire support men.In all firing missions, the fire support men, who are known to the battery as scout observers, are Marines who coordinate the firing missions. This liaison party spot targets, call in firing missions, record where the rounds impact and correct and adjust the coordinates for the next firing mission.It is necessary to have liaisons standing at an observation post, looking down at the targets for every TACP shoot, said Sgt. Aaron C. Shirley, firing support man with Mike Battery.Unfortunately for the liaisons, the battery is understaffed, and the liaisons are operating with four Marines less than they should be. Since the battery’s return from their deployment to Iraq in October, they have only been staffed with one forward observer, two firing support men and three field radio operators pulling weight for all tasks in the liaison party.“This is my third time conducting a TACP shoot,” said Shirley. “I was trained to perform these missions with a full staff. Now, being understaffed, we all have to pull our own weight with all the tasks.”The battery picked up their training as artillerymen in December. Since then, they’ve had three live fire field exercises. During this shoot the battery succeeded in filling those empty scout observer billets by growing their own scout observers from the ranks of their experienced radio operators. “I volunteered for scout observing training when I heard the liaisons needed them,” said Lance Cpl. Dennis O. Young, field radio operator with Mike Battery, acting as a fire support man. “It’s a challenging job. It sets us apart as artillerymen and radio operators. I sense the feeling that I’m controlling the battlefield from up here. The liaisons are the eyes of the battlefield, and without us, the battery can’t destroy targets.”While this shoot offered a different perspective for some, most of the Marines in Mike Battery are refreshing themselves as artillerymen. The battery went from serving as a provisional rifle platoon in Operation Iraqi Freedom 2, to serving as provisional corrections specialists in OIF 3. “I’m glad I got the opportunity to serve as a scout observer when coming back and serving as a firing battery,” said Lance Cpl. Daniel M. Martin, field radio operator with Mike Battery, acting as fire support man. “I love the change. It’s great being up here and calling in firing missions. The responsibility I have up here is greater than what most people with my MOS [military operational specialty] have. We were taught well by our sergeant. We all caught on quick over the short amount of time we had. “I know we’re understaffed, but I feel no difference because this is how I learned the job,” he continued. “The team I have is the only team I know. I know it’s a demanding job, but we’re definitely accomplishing the mission. I look forward to more firing missions.”Shirley feels the battery is in good hands with the liaison party observing in the distance. “I’m very impressed with the way we handled the shoot,” said Shirley. “The [EWTGPac] students accomplished their missions with the support of our battery, and more importantly, with the support of our liaisons. It was our third field exercise as scout observers, and I feel they’ve learned everything. Still, I know they are capable of being more proficient in the future.”The battery returned to what their battalion commander, Lt. Col. Douglas H. Fairfield, said is the most experienced artillery battalion in the Marine Corps, training more as “cannon cockers.” The rest of the battalion will have their chance to show their destructive capabilities next week during their battalion field exercise.