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Plumes of smoke rise on a Fort Sill range after a target was struck with 500-pound bombs from F/A-18 Hornets from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 112, Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas, on Aug. 13. The air strike was part of Operation Diamond Inferno.

FORT SILL, Okla. -- A large orchestrated training event lead by the 75th Fires Brigade went off with a bang Aug. 13, as servicemembers from all over participated in Operation Diamond Inferno. There was a rumble heard as 500-pound bombs were dropped in the impact area exploding old artillery hulks while air Naval gunfire liaison company Marines from Camp Pendleton, Calif., played their part from Observation Point Andrews.

Fifty Marines made their way to the heated ranges and spread out into different supporting arms liaison teams and fire power control teams.They coordinated the close air support with a Joint Terminal Attack Controller, fires observers and radio operators, all being used.

"This is some of the best training we'll probably have all year," said Marine Capt. Scott Stewart, 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company.

Different scenarios were devised to mimic what the military members would encounter in combat.

"Every time the JTAC comes up with something different, so one time it's a guy outside of a vehicle placing an improvised explosive device; it's a machine gun bunker; it's a high value target training at a terrorist camp. They just try and mix it up," said Stewart.

The Marines worked with the Army and other services to practice suppression of enemy air defenses, or SEAD. Stewart called it one big coordination effort, which was evident as watches were synchronized, coordinates were written down and Marines counted down to make sure there was no delays with their radios.

Check, check, check.

Then it was time to hash out where they needed the aircraft to strike. After much chatter over the radio, a screech was heard and the Marines looked to the sky.

What looked like a small object was released from the underbelly of an F/A-18 Hornet flown by Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 112 from Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas, and seconds later a thunderous boom and plume of smoke were heard and seen.

"It's our first field operation together so we're doing a lot better than I expected," said Sgt. Robert Edwards, 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company.

This wasn't just an exercise in hitting targets, although for some that may have been the most enjoyable part. Coordinating the ground and air piece was described as an invaluable exercise in communication and one that could save lives in theater.

"This joint exercise will help them in real world situations because in places like Afghanistan a lot of these guys have to help each other and they have to be able to call for fire. If the Marines use different terminology for one thing and the Army uses another term altogether, they can find themselves in a dangerous situation," said Sgt. 1st Class David Chapman, 75th FiB.

75th FiB hosted a similar exercise only a few short months ago and already wanted to do it bigger and better the next go round.

"That's the goal of all this. They're trying to simulate as much as they can without actually having real opposing forces," said Chapman. "These are not school Marines, they're all operating Marines so for them this is real opportunity training without a lot of the dangers of combat."

For Fort Sill's artillerymen it was a chance to step out of the motorpool and allow them to burn some rounds. For JTACs it was a chance to maintain their currency, while others may have found it more of a re-education on past lessons.

"They are getting the kinks out. Some of our forward observers haven't controlled artillery since they were back here at school. A lot of them have just got back from Afghanistan not too long ago but it was mostly supporting the JTACs and small arms fire type of missions so they're kind of knocking the cobwebs off," said Stewart.

Page last updated Thu August 19th, 2010 at 16:46