British Marines conduct live fire exercises at Camp Lejeune

8 Jun 2004 | Lance Cpl. Ruben D. Maestre

Click.  That was the eerie sound heard a split second before the blast of a British-operated Milan Anti-Tank Missile System unleashed a wire-guided missile down-range toward a target.

The heavy weapons operators of the anti-tank missile called out their operating procedures before firing the missile.  A leader of the crew tapped the gunner on the head, signaling to fire.  The missile, with an explosive charge, raced down range before exploding into a fireball against a discarded tank.

Members of the civilian media stood nearby and marveled at the accurate spectacle displayed by the Royal Marines.

British Marines, assigned with 42 Commando, Royal Marines, conducted a live-fire exercise with their anti-tank missiles at G-3 Impact Range here June 8. 

“We are absolutely delighted to be here,” said Lt. Col. Buster Howes, commander, 42 Commando, Royal Marines.  “We have been here a week now, working with the U.S. Marine Corps.”

The Royal Marines are part of a greater effort involving joint training and live-fire exercises with American, Dutch and French Marine units during Combined Joint Task Force Exercises held here this month. 

“This type of joint training is extremely important, as future battlefields will almost certainly involve join and combined forces working together,” said 1st Lt. Clark “Fenway” Carpenter, the CJTFEX public affairs officer here.  “We are very committed to honing our ability to operate in these environment and see the Combined Joint Task Force Exercise as an opportunity to further enhance our flexibility and capabilities.”

The Royal Marines, eager of the opportunity to train here, are ready to conduct continued field exercises within the area.

“What we’re hoping to do is train in Camp Lejeune as if it where a jungle,” said Howes of the swamps, insects and humidity here.  “The live anti-ambush drills [they have also conducted] have been a huge opportunity for us.”

During this particular training evolution, the British troops received an opportunity to fire their Milan anti-tank missiles.  Similar to the Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided, Missile Systems within the inventory of the Marine Corps, the Milan is smaller in size, yet still packs a punch to any enemy tank.  Conducting a live-fire shoot here gave them a chance to fire this weapons system.

“We don’t get a chance to do much live firing,” said Lt. Guy Wadge, a native of Newcastle, England, and a Royal Navy media operations officer assigned with the unit.  “You all have better ranges than in the U.K. [United Kingdom] to train with.”

Besides the opportunities provided by the firing ranges here, the Royal Marines firing their missiles got to train in a climate not familiar to the British Isles. 

“Getting used to the hot climate and getting our drills squared away are some of the things that we’ve trained on,” said Royal Marine Andrew Keane, an anti-tank, heavy weapons operator involved in firing the missile.  “I’m just having a good time.”

Despite the important live-fire training conducted with the missiles, the British commander wanted to emphasize their relationship with the U.S. Marine Corps.

“Its great that we’ve spent two weeks here,” said Howes.  “Despite that, we are only six-and-a-half thousand strong, we hugely prize our relationship with them.”