2/1 ‘lights up’ Aussie Outback

19 Aug 2005 | Cpl. Andy Hurt

Marines from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, stormed the Australian Outback during a five-day training evolution.The 13th MEU (SOC) docked in the capital city of Darwin, Australia, for a working port call Aug. 15, shortly before BLT 2/1, the ground combat element of the unit, filed onto buses seeking the rare training opportunity in the rugged field environment.The various infantry companies that compose BLT 2/1 split numbers into the Robertson Barracks, Mount Bundy and Kangaroo Flats training areas near Darwin, rotating platoon and squad-sized elements through various weapons and tactics ranges in an effort to both sustain warfighting skills in harsh terrain and fine-tune tactics already sharpened during a six-month work-up schedule prior to their current Western Pacific deployment. Staff Sgt. Dione D. Whisenant, a machine gun section leader with E Co., BLT 2/1, said the mission for the first two days of the training was mainly to obtain a “battlesight zero” for individual weapons systems. Commonly referred to as a “BZO,” the goal was to reach an exact sight alignment for each weapon, from which tuning can be adjusted according to target requirements, such as distance and lighting.“We’re doing a known-distance firing range right now, firing on targets from 300-800 meters,” said the Indianapolis native. “Last night, we (zeroed) our optical units.”Whisenant stressed the importance of the constant day and night firing, spawning 18-hour training days, while speaking calmly above the rattle of “talking machine guns. “When we go into harm’s way, we’re going to hit our targets.”Crossing the equator after successfully providing security for a 13th MEU (SOC) Humanitarian Assistance Operation in the Philippines, one of the main challenges for BLT 2/1 was the soaring Australian temperature.“The heat alone is good ‘misery’ training,” said Whisenant.As a training site, the Australian Outback provided an environment as unique as the people who inhabit it. Trees, hills, scrub brush and enormous termite mounds, supplied unfamiliar terrain to the warriors of the BLT, many of which had trained exclusively in the arid hills of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.“Marines are having to adapt to firing and patrolling around trees, logs, brush and mounds,” said Whisenant. “It’s something different from Camp Pendleton, but there’s no place like home.”Lance Cpl. Ty Brittain, a rifleman with G. Co., BLT 2/1, said despite the heat and exhausting schedule, the training was very beneficial.“I haven’t shot (a weapon) in two or three months,” said the League City, Texas, native. “I looked forward to coming out and firing.” The gallery, one of 17 ranges at the Kangaroo Flats training area, was an assortment of multi-shaped, sized, and colored targets, which Marines were directed to fire upon on command.The training was just one small step in preparing the Marines for the duties they may be called upon to perform during WESTPAC 05-1, but a serious mission nonetheless for tuning operational readiness.For more information about BLT 2/1, and the warriors of 13th MEU (SOC), visit the unit’s Web site at www.usmc.mil/13thmeu.
13th Marine Expeditionary Unit