Army Commandos, as part of the Royal Marines 40 Commando Battle Group, have deployed to the deserts of California, to take on their US Marine Corps (USMC) counterparts in a peer-on-peer warfighting scenario.
The British Army troops from 24 Commando Royal Engineers (Commando Sappers) and 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery (Commando Gunners) joined the UK Marines Battlegroup for training at the vast range complex of the Marine Air Ground Combat Training Centre at 29 Palms (near the border of Mexico).
Marines from 40 Commando partnered with 7th Marine Regiment USMC as the adversary taking on 2nd Marine Division - providing a force to be the lethal tip-of-the-spear.
40 Commando’s A Coy and B Coy were joined by commandos from across 3 Commando Brigade to form a Battle Group that included ranks from 24 Commando (Army) and 29 Commando (Army).
The Commando Gunners
The huge desert ranges provide the unique ability to fire in any direction for many miles; offering a particularly exciting opportunity for the gunners of 29 Commando who conducted direct-fire training.
Typically, a gunner will fire their artillery shell off towards the horizon (up to 17km away) and rarely see it landing. However, direct-fire simulates a last resort scenario where the gun is fired horizontally at an enemy within 1km; flanked by a fire team laying down fire on machine guns and rifles. The shells thudded the ground in the near-distance giving the scenario a real war-fighting feel.
Operating in the desert itself has its own difficulties. Usually synonymous with being dry and hot, the temperature in October can fluctuate between 30 degree at daytime, to below freezing at night.
Twenty-nine Palms tests every commando. The gunners were able to make the most of the ranges during day and night firing.