Echo Battery leads live-fire training for Exercise Fire Dragon
CAMP FUJI, Shizuoka, Japan -- “Fire for effect!” The bellowing command echoes in the maneuver area before a thunderous blast rings out, shaking the snow-covered ground. The 155 mm high-explosive round impacts on the center of its target, ending another fire mission.
Marines with Echo Battery conducted live-fire artillery training during Exercise Fire Dragon 13-2 Jan. 28 to Feb. 8 in the North and East Fuji Maneuver Areas at Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji.
The battery, part of 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, is participating in Fire Dragon to increase technical proficiency and enhance its ability to provide fire support to maneuver elements, according to Capt. Morris M. Sharber Jr., the commanding officer of Echo Battery.
“This exercise allows us to integrate all the assets of the battery together to put rounds downrange,” said Sharber. “Prior to live fire, we tactically convoyed throughout the maneuver areas and conducted reconnaissance, scouting, occupation and positioning drills.”
The drills helped Echo Battery prepare for the firing portion of Fire Dragon, according to Sgt. Terry C. Lott, a field artillery cannoneer and section chief with the battery.
“While conducting convoys in the training area, we repeatedly stopped to set up local security positions for the M777 A2 155 mm howitzers and conduct dry-fire missions to prepare for the live-firing days,” said Lott. “We are here to enhance our efficiency at sending rounds downrange through repetition of our tactics, techniques and procedures.”
After finishing the drills, Echo Battery transitioned to the live-fire portion of the exercise, according to Lance Cpl. Austin J. Lapierre, a field artillery cannoneer with the battery.
“Once we set up in East Fuji (Maneuver Area), the forward observers started feeding fire missions to our fire direction center, which in turn relayed the missions to the cannoneers to be executed,” said Lapierre.
The three-stage process for executing a fire mission is essential to ensure rounds hit their intended targets, according to Lapierre.
“When a forward observer spots a target that needs to be neutralized, he calculates the coordinates for where fire support is required,” said Lapierre. “After that, the forward observer sends the information to the fire direction center, where Marines determine what type of charge and round will be best for neutralizing the target. The FDC passes the fire mission to the gun crews, who fire the first round. The forward observer verifies if the gun crew hit or overshot or undershot the target, and relays adjustments, so the crew can fire again until rounds impact where needed and the target is neutralized.”
While the live-fire portion of Fire Dragon helped the battery’s gun crews enhance their proficiency in conducting fire missions, all Marines, regardless of their job, gained valuable experience from the exercise, according to Sharber.
“At the end of the day, I want the Marines to realize that brilliance in the basics will save the day,” said Sharber. “They can always rely on their brothers to the left and right of them. If you are doing your job and doing it correctly, there is no mission you cannot accomplish.”