Marines with Marine Rotational Force – Darwin moved through the extreme heat and dry terrain of the Australian Outback to send rounds flying at a simulated militia group of rebels armed with 82mm mortars, two vehicles and other weaponry.
This movement-to-contact exercise was just one of three ranges in which Marines with Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, MRF-D, along with units from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and Australian soldiers with Bravo Company, 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, worked together to eliminate the “enemy” threat as part of Exercise Koolendong, here, Sept. 1-4.
“Exercise Koolendong was about three days of live-fire activity, focusing on platoon attack ranges,” said Capt. Raymond L’Heureux, commanding officer, Lima Co., 3rd Bn., 3rd Marine Regiment, MRF-D. “The MEU did a movement-to contact exercise where Lima Company basically acted as one of the supporting efforts and conducted their range as if part of a larger operation.”
In order to prevent the advancement of the paramilitary force, MRF-D Marines executed a seamless plan-of-attack.
“We had to use a platoon-sized reinforced attack to pin them down and eliminate the vehicles and threat of the mortar systems,” explained Lt. Wesley Nix, platoon commander, 3rd Platoon, Lima Co., 3rd Bn., 3rd Marine Regiment, MRF-D. “We wanted to make sure the enemy couldn’t egress.”
The MRF-D Marines expertly accomplished that mission by employing the firepower of their riflemen, assaultmen, mortarmen and machine gunners.
“The goal was to have the mortarmen engage the enemy first while the machine gunners are setting up for their support by fire,” said Staff Sergeant Daniel Hubbert, platoon sergeant, Weapons Platoon, Lima Co., 3rd Bn., 3rd Marine Regiment, MRF-D. “As soon as the mortarmen had effective rounds, the machine gunners started occupying their support by fire. At that point, the riflemen began their maneuver to the objectives. Assaultmen were embedded with the riflemen the entire time, and their job was to eliminate the two enemy vehicles with Shoulder-Fired, Multi-Purpose Assault Weapon rockets.”
Each day, MRF-D Marines traveled to the ranges either on foot, by vehicle or by aircraft.
“The range itself stayed the same through every execution, but the methods of insertion changed,” explained L’Heureux. “For the movement-to-contact, we were motorized using the 7-tons and then we executed an air assault via an MV-22B Osprey and two CH-53E Super Stallions. It just allowed us to practice different methods of travel to our objectives using the different abilities we have as a Marine Corps.”
Overall, the exercise acted as a “proof of concept” to assess the capacity of the ranges to support a battalion-sized live-fire event.
“It’s a good training area where you can get a lot of things done,” said L’Heureux.
The more than 1,000 Marines and Australian soldiers who trained here made their point loud and clear: they can, in fact, successfully send rounds down range while sustaining themselves deep in the Outback.