British Gunners train with US Marines in Arizona desert

Gun­ners from 148 Bat­tery, 29 Com­man­do Reg­i­ment Roy­al Artillery, have been train­ing with US Marines in the dusty heat of the Ari­zona desert.

Gun­ner Elliott Lup­son, from 148 Bat­tery, 29 Com­man­do Reg­i­ment Roy­al Artillery, co-ordi­nates a casu­al­ty evac­u­a­tion with Unit­ed States Marine Corps Cap­tain Jonathan Cook of the 1st Air Naval Gun­fire Liai­son Com­pa­ny dur­ing Exer­cise Burmese Chase [Pic­ture: Lance Cor­po­ral William Water­street, Unit­ed States Marine Corps]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
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As the sun ris­es over the desert hills of south­ern Ari­zona, the US Marines and com­man­dos of the British Fire Sup­port Team can clear­ly see the sim­i­lar­i­ties between Afghanistan and Yuma. From the unbear­able heat to the unin­hab­it­able ter­rain, Marine Corps Air Sta­tion (MCAS) Yuma’s ranges set the stage for the finale of this year’s Exer­cise Burmese Chase.

Burmese Chase, a bilat­er­al train­ing exer­cise between US and UK armed forces, is con­duct­ed every year to hone the skills of for­ward observers, and cul­mi­nat­ed on 20 to 22 June in three days of live-fire close air sup­port on sim­u­lat­ed hos­tile forces.

Marines from the 1st Air Naval Gun­fire Liai­son Com­pa­ny (ANGLICO), Sup­port­ing Arms Liai­son Team Char­lie, based at Camp Pendle­ton in Cal­i­for­nia, trained togeth­er with the British Gun­ners on the ranges of MCAS Yuma.

The train­ing focused on the improve­ment of both nations’ capa­bil­i­ties to call for fire from sup­port­ing arms, espe­cial­ly air assets. Dur­ing their stint in Yuma, both 1st ANGLICO and 148 Bat­tery called in dozens of air strikes and casu­al­ty evac­u­a­tions to Marine Air­craft Group 39 assets, while Marine Wing Sup­port Squadron 371 pro­vid­ed expe­di­tionary refu­elling sup­port to keep the heli­copters close to oper­a­tions on the ground:

“This is exact­ly what we will be doing in Afghanistan,” said US Marine Cap­tain Jesse Rangel of 1st ANGLICO.

“This encom­pass­es the whole Oper­a­tion ENDURING FREEDOM scheme of manoeu­vre for ANGLICO teams.”

ANGLICO exists as a go-between for joint and inter­na­tion­al forces to co-ordi­nate sup­port­ing fires, be it ground artillery, naval artillery or air sup­port. The for­ward observers of 148 Bat­tery also co-ordi­nate sup­port­ing fires for ground forces, and often work with inter­na­tion­al assets. Both units strive to assure forces which haven’t trained togeth­er can oper­ate effi­cient­ly with each oth­er:

“We’ll be estab­lish­ing obser­va­tion posts near vil­lages,” added Cap­tain Rangel.

“We’ll be watch­ing [US Marine] infantry, Jor­dan infantry and British infantry head in, and we need to be able to com­mu­ni­cate with sup­port­ing air­craft with the equip­ment we have out here. We might have to com­mu­ni­cate through a young [US Marine], British sol­dier or Afghan Nation­al Army sol­dier out front to pro­vide sup­port.”

“This is an amaz­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty for us,” said Cap­tain Doug Web­ster, Com­mand­ing Offi­cer of the 148 Bat­tery, 29 Com­man­do Reg­i­ment Roy­al Artillery, Fire Sup­port Team.

“It’s impor­tant because we worked a lot with the Marine Corps in our last deploy­ment in Hel­mand province, Afghanistan. All of our bound­aries were shared with Marine units. This is a good oppor­tu­ni­ty to share tac­tics, tech­niques and pro­ce­dures.”

Exer­cise Burmese Chase start­ed with infantry immer­sion train­ing, which also incor­po­rat­ed fire sup­port and air asset co-ordi­na­tion, then con­tin­ued with live-fire artillery train­ing and counter-IED (impro­vised explo­sive device) train­ing:

“Both units duly ben­e­fit­ed,” stat­ed Cap­tain Rangel. “We shaped the exer­cise so it could encom­pass the needs of every­one.”

While the train­ing took place in Ari­zona, anoth­er con­tin­gent of Marines from 1st ANGLICO trav­elled to the UK to engage in sim­i­lar train­ing.

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK