At one point 20 Marines and 20 soldiers ditched their cannons and fought each other.
No, it wasn’t a turf war or a late night bar fight. It was on the South Range training area aboard the Schofield barracks on Oahu, Hawaii, within a simulated town as part of the exercise Steel Crucible, an Army-led exercise that saw Marines and soldiers fight against each other and work side-by-side in an island-hopping campaign against the fictional nation and near-peer threat called Torbia.
Both forces were equipped with electronic sensors that registered when a Marine or soldier was shot.
“It was kind of like capture the flag, we set up a defensive position in a building, the Army came and attacked it,” Marine 2nd Lt. Riley Rowlesbirdsong said in a video posted on the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service. “After that iteration we switched sides, Army held the defense, Marines attacked.”
The final attempt saw the Marines and soldiers “intermingle” in order to learn from each other, Rowlesbirdsong said.
“Ultimately, the Marines prevailed,” Lt. Col. John Gwinn, commander of the Army artillery battalion, told Marine Corps Times in an email.
For Lance Cpl. Cameron Mosher, the outcome was never in doubt.
“Once we got into our groove started talking to each other I knew we had them,” Mosher said on the DVIDS video.
Beyond interservice bragging rights, the goal of the exercise was to “strengthen joint interoperability, and continue development of tactics, techniques, and procedures for distributed operations,” Maj. Kurt Stahl, a spokesman for the 3rd Marine Division, told Marine Corps Times.
Both branches are slowly turning their focus away from the past two decades of war in the Middle East to re-focus on the growing threat of China and other potential near-peer conflicts.
The conflict would put increased stress on all branches of the military and force them to work in coordination as a joint force.
“The real training goal here, that we were able to meet was getting Marines and Army to get along and work together to better each other,” Rowlesbirdsong said.
On the night of Jan. 21, the “enemy” was advancing on Army forces, threatening to overrun positions on Oahu, Hawaii, until a battery from 1st Battalion, 12th Marines were sent into the fight.
With the M777 howitzers sling loaded on Marine CH-53E helicopters, the battery was able to quickly emplace and stop the enemy advance after firing roughly 25 rounds.
In total Alpha Battery fired roughly 350 rounds during the exercise.
Taking place in Hawaii, the two-week exercise reminiscent of the World War II strategy that helped cement the Marine Corps’ reputation as a fighting force, saw a battery of the Marines from based on Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, join with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, based at the Schofield Barracks Hawaii.
“We designed Steel Crucible to stress, certify, and qualify our firing platoons,” Gwinn said.
“The exercise allowed us to continue fostering our joint partnerships at the tactical level while increasing our lethality and readiness,” he added.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to say where the exercise took place and how many rounds were shot.