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15th Marine Expeditionary Unit


15th Marine Expeditionary Unit

America's Vanguard Force

Camp Pendleton, CA
1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company conducts fire-support exercises

By Lance Cpl. Anna Albrecht | | February 3, 2014


U.S. Marines with 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company and soldiers from the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force conducted fire-support coordination training during Exercise Iron Fist 2014 aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Jan. 30, 2014.

Iron Fist 2014 is an amphibious exercise that brings together Marines and sailors from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, other I Marine Expeditionary Force units, and soldiers from the JGSDF, to promote military interoperability and hone individual and small-unit skills through challenging, complex and realistic training.

The soldiers practiced these exercises for the past week using computer systems with ‘virtual battles,’ but the Marines and soldiers went to the field to conduct exercises and determine what their skill level is.

“We have set up the fire coordination center for their higher headquarters and we have sent down two [observation posts] to call in fires,” said Gunnery Sgt. Paul Smith, brigade fires chief, 1st ANGLICO.

Two teams of JGSDF soldiers were given grid coordinates and used land navigation to patrol out to and establish themselves as OPs. Once there, a Marine painted them a picture of the simulated battle.

They were given four targets and their goal was to plot those targets on a map, call in fire-support and destroy each one as quickly as possible. 

Smith explained that the soldiers with the JGSDF make their own plan and inform the fire support coordination center. Their higher headquarters communicates back to them any changes, approvals, modifications or denials they find. Whichever team destroys their targets and the opposing team, wins the challenge.

Having an incentive to win helped them work faster, which is essential in a real-world situation when the targets may not be stationary.

“If you have moving targets, you don’t want them to get very far because you may lose positive [identification]. Or, you might get your coordinates where they’re at, and then they might move and you have to adjust your mission an entirely different way,” said Cpl. Shawn Brakey, fire-support man, 1st ANGLICO.

ANGLICO is making sure they train the JGSDF to the best of their abilities.

“Basic fire coordination is what we’re doing here,” Smith said. “We’re not going into anything too intense, but we feel that if they’re asking us to help them train, there’s a certain level that we feel they should at least know. “

Their hard work is apparent because the Japanese have improved over the last week, Smith said. They are grasping the knowledge of how to control air support along with mixing air support and indirect fires.

Training will continue to become more realistic next week as they work on controlling real aircraft. Following that, they will travel to San Clemente Island, Calif., and integrate aircraft, ordinance and indirect fire.