TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- They took to the desert with the heat of afternoon sun on their backs, crossing the terrain in a four-man vehicle formation. Two of the 28,200-pound vehicles set up a base of fire against the enemy objective, discharging rounds from both the M242 25 mm chain gun and M240 7.62 mm machine gun. When the smoke cleared, the back hatches of the Light Armored Vehicles opened and four scouts charged forward into the enemy's territory.
"We are out here today doing crest drills," said Capt. James R. Fullwood of Raleigh, N.C., commander of Bravo Company, 2d Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2d Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, N.C. "We send scouts up and over the crest of a hill to observe what is on the other side. They check the area and set up security so the LAV's can infiltrate the enemy."
The unit is currently participating in Combined Arms Exercise 3-01 here, and according Major Russ E. Smith, the battalion's executive officer, the training potential of the desert environment builds a better-prepared unit.
"We are light armored reconnaissance," said Smith of Rochester, N.H. "Our job is to find the enemy for the MAGTF (Marine Air-Ground Task Force) commander, and if we meet the enemy, it's our job to take him out. The training we do out here is a building block that helps us with that mission so we can do a better job in combat."
According to Lance Cpl. Larry G. Wilson, a scout with 2d LAR Bn., one of the greatest benefits of training here is the opportunity to fire live rounds.
"I've never trained in the desert before so this is all new to me. Out here we have the chance to fire live ammunition, at Camp Lejeune it's only practice rounds," said Wilson of Brownsville, Texas. "Getting used to this kind of terrain and how to maneuver through it helps me to be a better scout."
Private First Class Andrew D. Stevenson, a crewman with 2d LAR Bn., agreed the type of training his unit can do here exceeds what he is used to at Lejeune.
"Here we can fire live rounds and we can open up and do a lot more maneuvers," said Stevenson of Bolivar, Mo. "That makes us more prepared for combat."
Smith added the diverse training capabilities of CAX make it the best warfighting lab in the world.
"I'd like to see them leave here better at their individual skills and better at combined training techniques," Smith remarked. "I hope they leave here better gunners and better platoon commanders."