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Army December 8, 2011
Gunners take on Viper
Pulling together: Australian gunners with members of the 3rd Bn, 11 Marine Regt, move an M777A2 Howitzer into position during Ex Enhanced
Mojave Viper at Twentynine Palms in California.
International relations: Soldiers from 8/12 Regt's 103 Bty, Gnrs Joseph Bell,
left, Andrew Gilmore, Luke Roberts, LBdrs Karl McGrath and James Thatcher,
and Bdr Matthew Powers take some time out with members of India and Mike
Btys, 3rd Bn, 11 Marine Regt, US Marine Corps during a five-day live-fire
exercise at Twentynine Palms in California.
By Cpl Melanie Schinkel
and Lt Todd Peut
GUNNERS from 8/12 Regt's 101,
102 and 103 Btys recently participat-
ed in the United States Marine Corps'
pre-deployment exercise Enhanced
Mojave Viper at Twentynine Palms in
The international exchange was a
continuation from Exercise Gold Eagle, a
combined artillery activity that integrated
members of the United States Marine
Corps (USMC) with 103 Bty in Darwin
From October 12 to November 19,
the Aussie gunners formed 103 Bty and
conducted mechanised and airborne
assaults alongside M Bty and I Bty,
3rd Bn, 11th Marines during Exercise
Enhanced Mojave Viper (EEMV).
Gnr Giulian Pierdomenico, 103
Bty, said EEMV was equivalent to the
Australian Army's mission rehearsal
exercises and prepared the 7th Marines
(Infantry) for their deployment to
Afghanistan later this year.
"It was an awesome exercise because
mixed units fired simultaneously -- it was
like being in the thick of a miniature
war," Gnr Pierdomenico said.
"The marines definitely do gunnery
differently to how we do it. They allo-
cate separate ammunition trucks for each
gun and they don't have safety officers
checking gun positions."
Battery Commander 103 Bty Maj
Ian Fletcher said it was an invaluable
experience for the battery to operate the
M777A2 155mm howitzer guns, which
will replace the Australian artillery's
M198 155mm howitzers from February
"EEMV was a resounding success
and 103 Bty was honoured to be the
first foreign military unit involved in
the exercise. It was 103 Bty's chance
to demonstrate what Australian soldiers
can achieve alongside US marines," Maj
"This exchange was about refining
joint interoperability and developing our
understanding of the USMC's tactics,
techniques and procedures."
During the trip the gunners also
completed M777A2 familiarisation,
observer and continuation training for the
Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data
System (AFATDS), a program used by
Australian soldiers and US marines to
send digital missions to the gun line.
"The rates of fire during EEMV were
high, which enabled the gun line to effec-
tively understand the capabilities and
limitations of the M777A2, as well as
educate the fire direction centres in the
fundamentals of the AFATDS," he said.
After EEMV 103 Bty participated in
a five-day battalion live-fire exercise that
involved high rates of fire, a battalion
gun raid and tactical movements by day
"About 1500 rounds were fired
throughout the battalion phase -- the most
rounds the Australian Army has ever fired
on the M777A2," he said.
"Our bond with the marines has
improved and will no doubt strengthen
in coming years. These exercises empha-
sised the Australian soldier's ability to
adapt to different situations and settings,
and amalgamate with coalition forces."
But it wasn't all work and no play
for 103 Bty. After the exercises the gun-
ners attended the 236th Marine Corps
Birthday Ball in Las Vegas, which gave
them the chance to unwind and socialise
with their marine counterparts in a more
"The ball was really fun and we were
lucky enough to see a marine drill dem-
onstration too. They were a nice bunch
of people and they took care of us both
during the exercises and while we were
out and about doing touristy stuff," Gnr
Following their three days in Las
Vegas, the gunners visited Camp
Pendleton in San Diego where they
went aboard the LHD USS Bonhomme
Richard before experiencing Rodeo
Drive, Hollywood, Seaworld, Disneyland
and a college football game.
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