04 October 2008

Range 410A at night

Background: We at the Tactical Training and Exercise Control Group (TTECG, a.k.a. "Coyotes") have recently added a new wrinkle to our training program: Night runs of a platoon attack at Range 410A. It's a pretty dynamic range, with several active support by fire positions firing at targets that are in close proximity to squads that are closing with those same targets. One of the contractors that works with me, Josh, is something of a skilled amateur cameraman. He took some awesome time-elapse shots. Check this out!

You'll see squiggly, irregular red and white lines throughout these shots. Those are time-elapse traces of Coyotes running with white or red chemlites. The white light down range is provided by 60mm mortar illumination rounds (thank God). I can't express the relief felt by someone controlling one of these things in complete darkness (there was no moon this night), praying that no one has arbitrarily decided to engage a target unsafely or wander into an active gun-target line, when an illum round goes up and you can see everyone and confirm that all is well. I aged several months, the first time we did this. The red streaks are tracer rounds from 7.62 machineguns.

This is one of my favorites. The two elbow-shaped arcs in the background are rounds that have ricocheted before tracer burnout. The flash on the right side is a 60mm mortar illumination round that has landed before burnout.

The green flare denoted that the squad that I was with was about to close with the target.

The blurry red blob in the background is me, standing near the entrance of trench 1 (the aforementioned target), madly waving my red chemlight as I deny fires to the left side of trench 1. The squiggly white lines are the Coyotes at the support by fire position moving their chemlights up and down, giving visual confirmation that they have denied those fires to the shooters that they are controlling. After seeing all the Coyotes in his position waving their chemlights up and down, the Coyote who "owned" that support by fire gave me a radio confirmation that his position was denied, allowing me to continue to the trench.

You can just barely see me standing at the entry point to trench 1 in this picture denying all fires on trench 1 (the mound of dirt on the left, under the red streaks in the background). Yes, those tracers look like they were going over our heads. They weren't. They were about 25 meters to our right. We did this 9 times over a three day period without incident. It is safe, as counter-intuitive as that may sound.

I fuckin' love my job.

Another green pop-up, denoting an immediate push from trench 1 to trench 2.

Suppression to support the push to trench 2. That's just so fuckin' cool.

More fire on trench 2. You really don't appreciate just how much power that one platoon of Marines (36 dudes) with a machinegun section in support (13 dudes with four machineguns) can bring to bear on the enemy until you see it at night. Note that for every red streak you see in these photos, there are 4 rounds that are NOT tracers impacting on those same locations. This is illustrated very effectively here:

Trenches 1 and 2 having been secured, the final squad moved around our left flank, going deep to assault trench 3. As they moved up, we "painted" that the enemy had driven up a couple of vehicles and were engaging them with machineguns on those vehicles (actually they were big HESCO barriers filled with dirt). This allowed that squad to fire on those targets with AT-4 rockets. Of course, they missed (they generally miss with rockets, sad but true), but it makes for a very fine photograph. Josh should win an award for catching this rocket in flight.

Finally, and because I love the abject pose here, indicating complete acceptance of whatever may come, I leave you with a great shot of me getting smoked out while resting between day runs of this range (note the supine driver in the back seat, which is standard conduct for drivers, as they wait for us to get done so they can go back to the shop and get ready for the next day) :

Again, thanks to Josh for the photos.