Photo Information

Lance Cpl. Joel Puertorodriguez, a Houston native with Combined Anti-Armor Team 1, Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, fires his M2 .50 caliber heavy machine gun at fixed targets down Combat Center?s Range 400, as his assistant gunner, Lance Cpl. P. A. Passow, a Laramie, Wyo., native, prepares the next can of ammunition for the gun July 29.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Michael S. Cifuentes

‘Darkside’ unleashes arsenal at Range 400

29 Jul 2006 | Lance Cpl. Michael S. Cifuentes

As the fervent sunlight shined on the surface of the Combat Center’s training area, a company of ‘Darkside’ Marines, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, treaded the land in a company-sized assault exercise.

The infantry companies from 3/4 journeyed out to Range 400 July 29 to exercise their skills on taking down enemy fortified positions.

Along with their brutal fighting tactics, the companies were accompanied by elements of the battalion’s Weapons Company.  An M2 .50 caliber machine gun and a MK19 40mm machine gun overlooked the range, as the Mortar Platoon waited on the side of the range with their M252 81mm Mortars.  

The companies were also equipped with combat engineers to perform a tactical movement known to Marines as breaching – using explosives to open up or clear out obstacles in order to move a unit through terrain.

The purpose of the exercise was to practice assaulting an enemy fortified position using unique Marine tactics, diversions and heavy fire power, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 John D. Whiting, 3/4 battalion gunner.

“The exercise is not specifically in preparation for a certain battle,” said Whiting, a Ridgecrest, Calif., native.  “This is being rehearsed for any enemy force that holds a strong point.  No matter where we deploy to, this test of skill and communication will be effective when attacking strong, enemy positions.”

Companies of Marines rushed the terrain in tactical formations.  Through communication, mortars were fired on fixed targets and were joined with a heavy barrage of M2 machine gun fire and MK19 devastation.  

As the heavy firepower molded the range’s terrain by demolishing targets, the companies advanced toward the strong points, where they would provide their own rifle and medium-machine gun fire.
Cpl. Daniel J. Greeley, 1st Squad leader, 2nd Platoon, Kilo Company, deployed with the battalion to Iraq twice and recalls using the techniques they exercised at Range 400.

“All of our movements are successful through communication and team movements,” said Greeley, a Suffern, N.Y., native.
Although the training was in the form of company movements, individual actions made certain areas of the mock enemy strong points collapse, he added. Some Marines carried and used a Shoulder-Launched Multipurpose Assault Weapons to destroy targets.  Other Marines called in for heavy and medium machine gun assistance, as well as medium mortar assistance.

Communication between squads and platoons held the company together during the attack, said Greeley. 

“The exercise taught some of the younger guys how to control fire and suppression,” he said.
The communication and distributed tasks gave the Marines the confidence to conduct an assault in combat. The companies met their proficiency on the range, said Whiting.

“We can bring the enemy down by using any and every weapon we have,” he added. It was the fourth time Greeley trained at Range 400, but the commotion of the movement and assault jolted his adrenaline and blood-flow, he said.

”When we train with combined arms we use everything for what it’s worth,” said Greeley.  “We know if it’s in the training package we will definitely use it in combat.  The range showed us how we did with company movements, diversions, combined firepower and communication.  This is exactly what we’ll be made of when we’re out there on our next deployment.”
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