24 Feb. 2001
22d MEU (SOC) throws heavy guns at Capo Teulada
story and photos by Cpl. Matthew Kell

CAPO TEULADA, Sardinia –The Marines of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) discovered that the rocky Italian training grounds covered with knee-high spiny shrubs and grass was similar to Vieques, Puerto Rico or Twentynine Palms, Calif. Not because of the environment, but because the warriors could throw everything they had into the recent weeklong Capo Teulada Fire Training Exercise 1-01.

“It offered us the opportunity to use naval gunfire, mortars, artillery and tanks in a combined maneuver area,” said Lt.Col. Robert W. Marshall, executive officer, 22nd MEU.

The exercise kicked off with a full amphibious assault launched from the three ships of the Nassau ARG, followed by force-on-force simulated combat confrontation with the host Italian 1st Armored Regiment.

“We were able to do a full amphibious assault using all the assets of the Battalion Landing Team,” said Lt.Col. Gilbert Desroches, the commanding officer of BLT, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines. “It’s very hard to coordinate an amphibious assault. The Marine Corps has perfected it, but it’s very complicated to time everything right and get all the assets ashore at the same time.” Desroches, an infantry officer originally from Port Au Prince, Haiti said the Italians were great because “They were very appreciative of learning our tactics and procedures at the rifle company level.” 

A round is caught in the smoke as Marines from the 81mm M252 mortar section of BLT 1/8 fire rounds on Capo Teulada
The two-day force-on-force exercise allowed the BLT to function as an entire unit, with the rifle companies, indirect fire assets and mechanized forces coordinating against a “proficient armored and mechanized force,” said Desroches.

A BLT 1/8 team leader fires high-explosive rounds from his 40mm M-203 grenade launcher
The Marines kicked off the assault by playing the part of a multi-national force sent to clear the Italian opposing forces, a neutral but potentially dangerous occupation force according to the scenario. After the disputed land was under American control, the Italians became unruly and the situation escalated into full-scale combat.

Range time was limited, so the force-on-force was kept to two days. 

This ensured the Marines had time to utilize the “crown jewel of Italian range facilities,” said Marshall.

The MEU executive officer also pointed out the Italians were very easy to work with because their range procedures were very clear and straightforward. “Their procedures are very similar to ours and that contributed to the success of the exercise.”

The Italian ranges allowed the MEU and ARG to fire all the weapon systems organic to the blue-green team.

“The priority of the ranges was to fire the heavy weapon systems of the BLT,” said Desroches. “This is the first opportunity since we deployed for artillery, tanks and Light Armored Vehicles (LAVs) to fire live rounds.”

“I enjoyed it because I’m actually doing what I’m trained to do,” said Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) Gunner Cpl. Stefan Feliz-Kent, from Kansas City. “I’m trained to look through a site and send rounds down range.”

The ranges not only allowed the Marines to get trigger time on their particular weapon systems, it allowed the warriors to see how they fit into the grand scheme of the battle.

Marines from the Light Armored Reconnaissance detachment of BLT 1/8 fire the Light Armored Vehicle's (LAV) 25mm cannon during live fire exercises on the Italian training grounds
“The best part of this range is you get to see the other elements shooting right along side of you,” said Pfc. Anthony R. Alverez, pointing to the Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAVs) only a few hundred meters from his 60mm mortar’s gun position. “You can see their rounds impacting as yours are also.”