UDAIRI, Kuwait --
Four months into its current deployment, the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s ground combat element conducted its final planned exercise, a bilateral demonstration with the Kuwaiti military, at a range here Jan 27.
Familiar with live-fire and combined-arms exercises, Battalion Landing Team 2/4 employed its weapons company, combat engineers, artillery and tanks.
“The climax of the deployment is like the climax of a movie,” said Sgt. Hector L. Cartagena, from Lindsay, Calif. “We go out with a bang.”
AH-1W SuperCobra attack helicopters from the 11th MEU’s aviation combat element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 166 (Reinforced), provided air-to-ground fire while Battery A howitzers on the ground hammered the same simulated enemy position.
Weapons Company Marines watched the smoke blasts off in the distance, and with guns and missiles mounted and engines revving, they waited in Humvees for their cue.
“It felt cool to look around and see all the components come together as if it were a real mission,” said Navy Seaman Javier Perez, a corpsman from Houston.
Combat engineers breached a lane by detonating a fuel explosive mixture that sent fireballs into the sky.
“When I saw it, I was just amazed with the size of the explosion,” said Perez.
With an enemy position primed for attack, the Humvees made their approach as Kuwaiti tanks fired 120mm guns.
Adding to their bang of a finale, the Marines fired wire-guided missiles and an obstacle breeching system that projected a line filled with explosives to clear a route.
“It’s important for us to let our tactics better (Kuwait’s) capabilities,” said Capt. Harry K. Thompson Jr., Weapons Company commander, from Downingtown, Penn. “The Kuwaiti units have been very enthusiastic and motivated to get a lot out of this.”
The exercise was the MEU’s largest show of armed force paired with a foreign military since the Marines deployed from San Diego in September, 2009.
“This was the first time we have worked with the Marines,” said Staff Sgt. Hadi Al-Ashimer, a Kuwaiti military policeman with 20 years of enlisted service. “The Marines have good experience and we learned a lot of things we didn’t know about before.”