SHOALWATER BAY TRAINING AREA, Queensland, Australia --
SHOALWATER BAY TRAINING AREA, Queensland, Australia – All his discomforts were forgotten during the sprint from behind the tree to the trench 20 meters beyond. His flak jacket compressed around him as he dove for cover and connected with the ground, but even that was ignored as his rifle butt quickly found its pocket in his shoulder and began its rhythmic kicking in-time with each trigger pull.
This scene was repeated multiple times across the platoons of Company G., Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, throughout the duration of exercise Talisman Saber 2013 here, July 23.
“The first enemy contact we received was during movement to a compromised airfield, but since then the past couple of days have been slow with no opposition,” said Lance Cpl. Nathaniel U. Manygoats, infantry assaultman with Co. G., BLT 2/4, 31st MEU. “That all changed when the security element of our patrol base spotted movement during the twilight hours.”
A six-man squad of soldiers from the Australian Defense Force role-playing the opposition attempted to ambush the patrol but were staved off once the Marines counterattacked. Although a few rounds of blank ammunition were exchanged and the contact quickly withdrawn, the oppositional force did not let up the pressure for the rest of the night and into the next day.
The Marines welcomed this break from the monotony.
Quickly switching to the offensive, a reinforced squad of Marines patrolled a main road in the area and established an ambush of their own. It was not long before an enemy vehicle was attacked by the waiting forces. The Marines captured four enemy soldiers and seized a machine gun from the truck.
The strength and resources available to Co. G. were realized when their 14 Amphibious Assault Vehicles swam ashore from the USS Germantown following the notional bombardment of enemy targets by fixed and rotary-wing aircraft from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced), 31st MEU. The aggressors, however, were quick to adapt their tactics to survive the superior armor and firepower they faced.
“They certainly haven't been foolhardy about the way they attack us,” said Cpl. Russell R. Swabb, squad leader with Co. G., BLT 2/4, 31st MEU, and native of Dayton, Ohio. “They adapted their strategy to more guerilla-type fighting with sporadic harassing fires, not risking a full-frontal attack but enough to try to claim casualties on our side.”
For the rest of the day, four to six-man enemy teams continued to attack the Marines of Co. G, but never attacking from the same front. The firefight culminated with a squad-on-squad battle as the day turned to dusk, pitting a 13 man cadre of Marines against aggressors of relatively equal strength.
“We're roughly matched in (the number of) personnel, but the main difference in equipment is their automatic weapons,” said Manygoats, an Indian Wells, Ariz., native. “That gives them a slight edge on us, but we're dug in on high-ground. We're technically evenly-matched on this one.”
The shift in momentum came courtesy of the AAVs with their mounted heavy machine guns. The AAV firepower neutralized the rest of the opposition force in the area, ensuring the Marines escaped the firefight without taking any casualties.
Because this was a small part of the larger exercise, the two forces talked together afterword to discuss tactics and exchange ideas with each other.
“They have solid tactics, are well organized in their attacks and defenses and adapt well to our strategies,” said 2nd Lt. Andrew V. Dixon, platoon commander with Go. G., BLT 2/4, 31st MEU, and a native of Atherton, Calif. “They've been doing everything they could to attack us from every angle, but that’s been making it fun. So far, the exercise has been a great training opportunity for us.”
Talisman Saber 2013 is a biennial training exercise between the U.S. and Australian forces, aimed at improving combat readiness and interoperability while enhancing stability in the Asia-Pacific region.