Marines 'HAC' dust and heat; CAX 9-02 Helicopter Assault Course complete ;;

9 Aug 2002 | Lance Cpl. G. Lane Miley

"When you release the 'dogs of war', don't expect them to play fetch," said Lance Cpl. Jay Thomas, a rifleman turned minesweeper with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment. He said this as his dusty platoon settled on the hot, desert floor, awaiting the rest of his company. He and other desert warriors spread across the dunes, and watched for enemy activity. Thomas and the rest Alpha and Weapons Companies deployed to the field here recently as part of the Helicopter Assault Course. During the HAC, they used both offensive and defensive tactics on simulated targets -- all of this part of Combined Arms Exercise 9-02. The company first stopped at Range 400. There, they settled in for the evening, and the platoon sergeants and squad leaders planned the next day's events. They knew they had a long day ahead of them. When the sun rose on "God's day" the Marines were already awake. They took down their cammie netting and removed the rocks embedded in their sides from the night's slumber. The Marines ate breakfast before boarding the birds. Pfc. Scott W. Davidson said the scrambled eggs increased morale. The Andover, N.J., Marine said he was glad to have a meal with no sand in it, especially a cooked one. After chow, the fully-loaded warriors made their way onboard CH-46 and CH-53 helicopters, and headed across the desert. The pilots maneuvered their aircrafts through rocky canyons to an insertion point. Second Platoon, A Co. inserted first. Its role - provide security for the rest of the company. Once the others arrived, everyone headed toward the frontline where their objectives lay. The Marines pressed on through the heat of the day, up-and-down rocky slopes, sprinting at times. Many said this type of training is what this legion of warriors is used to. Weapons Company's heavy machine-gunners made their way atop "machine-gun hill" providing cover fire for A Co. Alpha peeled off in squads covering one another as they closed in on the enemy bunker. They then bounded over rocks, up-and-down steep embankments to the front of the bunker. Once there, service rifles took out the targets simulating personnel, and the Marines with the shoulder-launched multipurpose assault weapons and anti-tank AT-4s fired rockets, destroying the bunker. However, these Marines didn't blindly attack the objective. Scout snipers surveyed the terrain days before the infantry Marines arrived. Cpl. John R. Bernard, scout sniper, provided suppression fire, route reconnaissance and guided the company through the canyon. After the bunker was destroyed, A Co., Weapons Plt. mortar men set up to take out another target. However, because of a break in communication, one platoon advanced too quickly and for safety reasons training stopped until the next day. Pfc. Nathaniel J. Myles, A Co. communications chief, said terrain here makes clear comm very difficult. He said it's even more difficult when you try to hammer the antennae's metal stakes into granite. He said Marines set up retransmission antennas around the area to get the clear signal they needed. "Communication is paramount. Without it everybody's dead and the battle's over," the Chicago Marine said.The mortar men then packed their gear and dug in for the evening. They filed off to the west, and other the warriors filed-off to the east to set up night security. They awaited a frontal attack from the enemy. When the sun peaked over the ridge, the Marines were once again awake, as they had been all evening. Through radio simulations, the 1/2 Marines fended off the enemy with the help of the joint task force's artillery, fixed-wing and rotary-wing support fire. "CAX is one of the only places where you actually see combined arms," Cpl. Ricardo R. Betancur said. "Other times we work with the different elements, but we don't always see them. Out here, you see how everything works together."The Chicago squad leader said his Marines performed well being new to the Fleet Marine Force. He said it's training like CAX where they discover needed survival skills. Alpha and Weapons Companies finished the exercise with the defensive measure. The 1/2 Marine and Sailor team will conclude CAX 9-02 next week, and return to its home base of Camp Lejeune, N.C.