TOWNSHEND ISLAND, Queensland, Australia -- The artillery pieces, ammunition and skills were all the same, the only difference was the accent.
Artillerymen from Echo Battery, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, worked alongside artillerymen from the 107th Battery, 4th Regiment, Royal Australian Army during a live-fire training exercise here, July 31 through August 3.
Each of the forces fielded two M777 155mm Howitzers with full gun teams, and hundreds of high explosive and white phosphorous rounds for a live-fire exercise following the conclusion of Talisman Saber 13. . The firing began with the Marines sticking to their guns and the Australian’s to theirs, but the two sides quickly swapped artilleryman to get a look at the other’s technique.
“The way (U.S. Marines) do it, everyone is really switched on,” said Vladim Mitrovic, an artilleryman for the 107th Btry, 4th Reg., RAA, and a native of Melbourne, Australia. “(The Marines) know what they’re doing and (they) do a lot to minimize the dangers of the job.”
With identical guns and ammunition, the only small differences the two forces could find between them were procedural. The Marine artillerymen were impressed by how similar their Australian counterparts were.
“It would be really easy to incorporate an Australian soldier into one of our gun teams,” said Cpl. Israel Villalobos, a section chief for E. Battery, BLT 2/4, 31st MEU, and a native of Chicago, Ill.
“They use the same system and know the same things we do.”
The bilateral force conducted numerous scenarios together, from adjusting fires on a variety of targets to a full test of their coordinated efforts as the simulated fire-support of a battalion.
“We conducted coordinated missions with the Australians to maximize our capabilities as a combined force,” said Gunnery Sgt. David H. Marinelarena, battery gunnery sergeant for E. Btry, BLT 2/4, 31st MEU, and a native of El Paso, Texas. “By demonstrating our capabilities to one another, we gain confidence for the possibility of future coordination.”
After four days alongside and integrated within the Marine gun line, the Australian soldiers expressed a shared confidence in their ability to work together. The training garnered a level of confidence and comfort between the forces.
“The understanding we’ve developed here will make us a more lethal force for real operations,” said Mitrovic.
Although a valuable training experience for the artillerymen, many of the Marines felt the four days did much more than form an efficient bilateral gun team.
“It was a good experience, not just as an artilleryman but as a person, to work with a different culture,” said Villalobos.
The live-fire exercise provided effective and intense training to ensure our forces are capable, interoperable, deployable on short notice and combat-ready. The 31st MEU is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness for the Asia-Pacific region and the only continuously forward-deployed MEU.