POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA, Hawaii --
U.S. Marines with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment performed a fire support coordination exercise at the Pohakuloa Training Area on the Island of Hawaii, Oct. 21, 2017.
The purpose of this training is to coordinate various types of fire support ranging from artillery barrages to airstrikes efficiently while maintaining caution.
“We have the fire support teams (FST) integrating fires with the 81 millimeter mortar platoon, and aircraft assigned to the Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367, also known as Scarface,” said Capt. Brian Smith, a native of Gainesville, Florida, and an infantry officer with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines. “The FST leaders are working on integrating those fires through quick fire plans, prosecuting targets of opportunity, and coordinating those fires in a manner that is most effective and lethal.”
Smith said even though they have to get ordnance on target they also need to have a constant concern for safety.
“The Fire Support Coordination Center is monitoring those fires to make sure that it’s executed in a responsive, but also safe manner especially toward the aviation assets involved in the operation,” Smith said.
Lance Cpl. Jeff Hoffman, a native of Woodbridge, New Jersey, and a forward observer with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, said each individual in a FST has a specific job.
“You have your FST leader, the forward air controller, they’re responsible for the air assets, and you have Marines like me who provide observation and coordination for the 81 mm mortars,” Hoffman said. “We make timelines for the supporting fires so the aircraft involved can fly safely, suppress targets with mortars and artillery, and this way if there’s any anti-air in the area we can put those down paving the way for the air assets.”
Hoffman said it takes teamwork and organization to conduct a fire support coordination.
“We speak with each other on the radio, and use a system to adjust the placement of the fires,” Hoffman said. “My job is to get mortars and artillery on target while the other members of the team coordinate with their assets.”
Capt. Josh Horman, a native of Kansas City, Missouri, and a forward air controller with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, said they used various types of aircraft during the fire support coordination.
“We’ve integrated fixed and rotary wing aircraft alongside the mortars and artillery,” Horman said. “The FST’s worked with Hawker Hunter fighter jets, Scarface who provided UH-1Y Hueys and AH-1 Cobras, and F-18 Hornet aircraft from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.”
Horman said the aircraft need to integrate alongside the other fire support assets to avoid friendly fire.
“There’s a 12 step process called the execution template that we run through,” Horman said. “We utilize a detailed coordination with the mortar team so that our aircraft can safely provide air support.”
Smith said he’s glad the Marines completed the exercise, and can better the unit as a whole.
“It’s really a great opportunity to get the FST’s trained and ready so they can go back to their companies and make them even more deadlier than before,” Smith said. “It allows [us] to improve at integrating fires and get better at the combined arms that make the Marine Corps lethal.