TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Machine gun fire echoed through the rocky canyon at Range 410 Alpha. Marines atop machine-gun hill provided suppression fire for their fellow warriors below as they moved toward their forward objectives.
Kilo Company Marines, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, attacked the range Friday. It was their first challenge of Combined Arms Exercise 10-02 here.
Some of them have met this challenge during previous visits to the Mojave Desert, like CAX veteran, Cpl. Robert H. Patty.
"Get all the training in while you can. You never know when you'll need it," the Collinsville, Okla., and third-time CAX participant said.
But for many others this was their initial taste of the desert. First time CAX participant, 2nd. Lt. Jonathan L. Hayes, 1st Platoon Commander, said he has high expectations for his Marines - for this range and throughout CAX 10.
Safety is paramount for Marines, during training and off the job. So the Marines received a safety brief before getting started, especially since they would be using live fragmentation grenades.
As the sun rose in the sky and began to heat the day, the range went hot. Lance Cpl. Shane S. Kyker made sure he had his lucky rabbit's foot as the training got underway.
"It's a tradition," the superstitious South Amherst, Ohio Marine said. "I wore it last CAX and through Okinawa and it hasn't failed me yet."
The platoon started in a patrolling formation before sprinting nearly a mile down a washed out area in the valley. The riflemen and SAW (squad automatic weapons) gunners made their way down the wash to the north as the machine gunners lugged their M 240 "Golfs" up the rocky side of machine-gun hill to the west and the mortar men made their way across the sandy desert floor to the east to get into position.
As the Marines made their way through the basin, they met a wall of razor sharp constantine wire.
Lance Cpl. Scott B. Dennis of Tampa, Fla., made a quick sweep for mines, using a rope and grappling hook before Hemet, Calif., native Lance Cpl. Mark A. Delarosa used wire cutters to quickly snip the wire. He then used a folding, metal backboard, normally used for patient evacuation, to bridge the obstacle.
After clearing the wire, the platoon kept moving through the dry, rocky wash. They used smoke to obscure the enemy's view and laid a rain of gunfire on the bunkers as Marines atop machine-gun hill utilized the SMAW (shoulder-launched multipurpose assault weapon) to take out the first enemy bunker.
The platoon broke into squads and simultaneously moved in to take out the other two bunkers as the M 240 "Golfs" and the mortar men continued to provide a hail of covering fire. The first squad provided cover fire against pop-up targets as Marines from the other squads made their way to the trench.
They froze their advance at the lip. One Marine pulled the pin and dropped in the frag. After an earth-jarring explosion, they entered the passage and made their way through a cloud of dust toward the enemy stronghold. The front man performed a double tap, firing two rounds, taking out the enemies in the trench's first axis. They kept their heads down to keep from hitting the rafters until they got to the next corridor. They stopped at the corner, pulled the second grenade's pin and flung it down the furrow. After the grenade exploded, they continued on to the trench's heart - the bunker. One more grenade was used to clear the enemy stronghold. After it went off and the Marines made sure the bunker was clear, they exited the trench and went on to complete the range.
After the trenches were clear, a yellow smoke grenade was set off to simulate a helicopter pickup point. More targets popped up to simulate a counter attack, but the Marines fired back, subduing their enemy.
The call for a white flag, simulating an enemy surrender, came across the radio as the Marines ceased fire and pulled out of the area.
Lt. Col. Paul B. Dunahoe, commanding officer, 3/2, was on hand to congratulate the Marines for a job well done.
Hayes, the Lavonia, Ga., platoon commander, was ecstatic after hearing his commander's comment. He praised his Marines for working so well together and completing the course in only 27 minutes. The previous time was more than 28 minutes.
"So far they have met every expectation I had for them," Hayes said. "They were very aggressive, but they still kept their heads in the game."
The Kilo Company Marines head to Range 400 tomorrow to continue their training as the ground combat element for Marine Air Ground Task Force-2. The Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based warriors will return home after completing CAX 10 sometime in mid-September.