MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- With more than 930 square miles of desert, the Combat Center is home to some of the Marine Corps’ most realistic pre-deployment training for troops headed to Iraq.
The Combat Center’s Range 400 is used to train rifle companies in the techniques and procedures for attacking fortified areas, and is one of the most dynamic live-fire ranges in the Marine Corps, said Capt. Andy S. Watson, assistant infantry representative, maneuver section, Tactical Training Exercise Control Group.
"It’s the only range in the Marine Corps where overhead fire is authorized," he explained. "We are also granted a waiver to close within 250 meters of 81mm mortar fire. Normally, it is only 400 meters. Therefore, Range 400 gives Marines a realistic training experience of closing close into fires. They can’t get that anywhere else in the Marine Corps."
Marines and sailors from Company E, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, during their second week of Mojave Viper, went to Range 400 Oct. 13, to take on the multi-faceted training exercise.
For each fire team, there is one Coyote from TTECG on hand to guide the troops through the rigorous course to their objective and control responses to unpredictable combat situations that fell into their hands.
Under the trajectory of overhead machinegun fire, fire teams are required to move and fire, react to indirect fire, conduct area reconnaissance, process and disseminate intelligence, distribute ammunition, shift and cease of fire, practice hand and arm signals, among other obstacles throughout the exercise, said Watson.
In preparation for going to Range 400, Marines and sailors go through similar training evolutions on a smaller scale, without ammo, at Range 410A and Range 410. These two ranges are used to remediate, develop and refine platoon and squad battle drills before implementing them at Range 400, according to Field Manual 7-8 of the Range 400 Handbook, a field reference guide created to help units get the most out of this final stage of their pre-deployment training.
Part of combat training involves providing on-the-spot aid to injured troops. The companies training at Range 400 are assigned notional casualties, called "cherry pickers," to execute the company’s casualty evacuation plan. The "cherry pickers" are given a card with a description of their injuries. Litter teams are then responsible for transport and care of the "cherry picker." There are Coyotes, who are corpsmen, to make sure necessary quick-response procedures are taken to save the victim.
"The entire process from the point of injury to reception at the forward BAS [Battalion Aid Station] is observed and assessed by TTECG," said Watson. "They are handed extra IFAKs [individual first aid kits] to test their knowledge on how to employ them."
Throughout the exercise, training is overseen by the Coyotes, who evaluate the effectiveness and leadership initiatives of the Marines and sailors. A written assessment is provided to the training company’s commander to critique the company’s maneuver through the range.
They are tested on their ability to quickly react, be decisive leaders, gather intelligence and provide aid to their brothers, while taking over a fortified position with proficient marksmanship and weapon skills, on one of the most realistic training grounds in the Marine Corps.
The training at Range 400 is another step toward an even more ready Marine Corps, preparing Marines and sailors for almost anything and everything in the two-hour evolution, with the Coyotes watching and ensuring the best of the best training to all who go through it.