FORT MAGSAYSAY, Republic of the Philippines --
Protruding through the camouflage netting overhead, the enormous barrels of the artillery weapons launch deadly fire on the command from both Philippine and American warriors.
Marines and Sailors from India Battery, 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit conduct live-fire operations alongside Philippine Marines and soldiers from Field Artillery Battalion, using M777-A2 Howitzers here, Oct 10.
“Today’s goal was to conduct bilateral training with the Philippine Marines and the Philippine Army so our Marines get a taste of what is going on, on their side, and so they can also see ours,” said Sgt. Daniel Middlebos, a howitzer section chief for India Battery, 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines Regiment, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and a native of Spokane, Washington. “Part of the bilateral training is getting them on the gun line with us so that they are learning every position, so we have the ability to operate together without problems.”
The training conducted was a “shake and bake” operation. This is conducted by firing two types of rounds, the M795 High Explosive round and the M110 White Phosphorus round. By combining each round’s unique properties with proper timing of fires, the “shake and bake” can cause devastating effects on the target. During this operation, the M795 round uses its high explosive capability to stop a convoy of vehicles, allowing the M110 to maximize its incendiary effectiveness on the now exposed enemy.
“During this operation, we have multiple Howitzers firing, allowing us to use two completely different rounds with different capabilities at the same time,” according to Lance Cpl. Devin Stewart, a cannoneer with 3/12 and a native of Sidney, Ohio. “Firing these guns with the Philippine Marines and soldiers is tough, but at the same time, I enjoy it.”
The bilateral forces worked together by plotting points inside the fire direction control center, aiming and adjusting the Howitzers, practicing loading procedures, and firing the rounds. The training provided the Philippine forces with familiarity in the weapons, and the Marines a new perspective of their counterparts.
“All of this training we have done today will prove to be useful during our future operations,” said 1st Lt. James Melad, a battery section commander with Headquarters Battalion, Philippine Marine Corps and a native of Tuguegarao City, Republic of the Philippines. “We only get two chances a year to work alongside the United States Marine Corps. Each time, both sides walk away more knowledgeable and capable than before.”
The Marines and Sailors of the 31st MEU are conducting the 29th iteration of the Amphibious Landing Exercise alongside their Philippine Marine counterparts in order to improve the two forces’ interoperability and strengthen their long standing relationship.
“It is an honor to have been selected out of our battalion to come and train with the Philippine forces,” said Stewart. “When we show each other something and then operate flawlessly, it really gives you a sense of accomplishment.”
The 31st MEU will continue to train alongside the Philippine Marines and soldiers throughout the two week exercise, integrating the skills gained here into future operations. The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.