Kings of Battle: 10th Marine Regiment, artillery, and the future of the Marine Corps

10 Dec 2014 | Lance Cpl. Kaitlyn Klein 2nd Marine Division

The thunderous power of Marine artillery, carried into the fight by units such as 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, has helped shape the Corps’ war-fighting capabilities for more than a century. It has gone through periods of growth and periods of reduction, adapted to ever-changing battlefields, and infused itself with modern technology.

Col. Clifford Weinstein, Commanding Officer, 10th Marine Regiment

Col. Weinstein was commissioned as a Marine Artillery Officer after his graduation from Officer Candidates School and The Basic School in Quantico, Virginia. Weinstein assumed command of 10th Marine Regiment June 7, 2013, and has since led his unit through intense training geared towards combat readiness, and integration into the future expeditionary model for the Marine Corps.

Q.) What message would you like to get out regarding your unit and its mission?
A.) 10th Marine Regiment provides a close-in, 24-hour-a-day, all-weather, indirect-fire support capability for all the infantry regiments and the division commander across 2nd Marine Division. And we’ve been doing that in this regiment for about 100 years now. There are a lot of things that we do, have done and will do for the division. The most important thing we do is to ensure that those fire teams moving towards their objective can do so successfully. The artillery does that through the fire support that we provide from cannon, mortar, and rocket support that we as the east coast Artillery Regiment provide to 2nd Marine Division and II MEF as a [Marine Air-Ground Task Force].

Q.) What does the future of Marine artillery look like, and how does Marine Corps artillery fit into the Navy/Marine Corps expeditionary model?
A.) You have to look back first, because Marine Corps artillery has always been in a state of flux. There have been times when we’ve had an awful lot of artillery, and there have been times when we’ve had almost none. The point we’re at now with the budget constraints, as well as coming off of several contingencies throughout the world, is we’ve reduced the amount of artillery, to a degree. Most of the reduction is because of the number cap we have in the Marine Corps. We’re not at 202,000 anymore. Therefore as we draw down to 182,000 Marines, we’re going to find that there’s less requirement for artillery. We still provide the same type of fire support I talked about for the infantry regiments, also providing suppression of enemy air defenses and marking targets for aviation assets, but right now we’ve shrunken down slightly. In the future, as the need calls, we’ll expand. The future of Marine Corps artillery, I think, is set. I think it’s going to be here as long as we have infantry battalions and infantry regiments. Right now the requirement is to have enough artillery to take care of large regional size conflicts, to be able to support the division and contingency operations, and we can do that well in this division. The biggest change that artillery has made recently is the ability to provide highly accurate and even precision first round fire for effect capability we have moved artillery out of the “area-fire” fires category. So, with our evolution in the artillery community, and the fact that artillery is ingrained in our Corps and the way that we fight, the future is kind of bright.

Q.) How will the unit integrate with the Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Force 21 model, which taps into the Navy-Marine Corps team’s agility and maritime capabilities to maintain forward-deployed units and conduct crisis response operations?
A.) That’s a matter of tactics, because we are not changing what we do, we’re just changing how we do it. The smaller operations that we’ll do through Expeditionary Force 21 allows us in the artillery community to respond and probably do a little bit of restructuring on some of the ways we fight … Most people are used to hearing about artillery batteries, which is six guns. But there’s nothing that prevents us from employing those six guns into three and two gun sections. That, I think, under EF 21, section, and platoon-sized artillery deployments may be a more realistic employment method in a lower-end operation. Whatever the requirements are for Expeditionary Force 21, I’m sure we will be able to meet it. The Marines and sailors are trained to do that, and they do it pretty well.

Q.) When it comes to crisis response, what capabilities does artillery bring to the table?
A.) Right now we don’t really imbed a large artillery footprint. What we bring is a fire support capability in the form of fire support teams. We commit the expertise, so we have the ability to integrate and advise the commanders over there, depending on the mission, on what type of fire support, including artillery, is best for them. When it comes to high-end operations, we can get artillery over there. There’s nothing that we keep permanently tethered to each MAGTF headquarters. It’s mission specific and by what the commander requires.

Q.) What types of things are you and your Marines doing to prepare for future missions?
A.) We’re out there training fairly consistently to support either the infantry battalions that these batteries are attached to, or training to support a myriad of other mission sets. 10th Marines keeps a pretty high operations tempo year-round. In artillery, due to its nature has a very small margin for error. All of our fire is live-fire. If we make a mistake, people can be killed. The Marines do a spectacular job of ensuring accurate and timely cannon and mortar fires, and a lot of it is just due to the good training that we have.

Q.) What type of equipment can you bring to the fight, and what are some of that equipment’s capabilities?
A.) At a minimum, we try to bring two platforms: the M777 155mm towed howitzer and the 120mm mortar system. Using both of those gives you the capability to do high-end operations over the beach, or flying in to do either a raid or setting off to the side to do fire support or the 120 mm mortar system … [Artillery]. We are able to support the high-end capabilities or requirements of the Marine Corps by providing that lethal fire-support capability through 155 mm howitzer rounds, or 120 mm mortar rounds fired from the expeditionary fire support system, which can be more easily air-lifted into a combat zone.

Q.) How does artillery today compare to many modern perceptions?
A.) People watch a lot of movies, and they think that there’s just this sustained bombardment, what they used to call a “rolling barrage,” where you fire a lot of artillery and then stop and attack. That’s a methodology you can use for a frontal attack. We are not really into those these days. As I talked about earlier the advances in precision, and highly accurate cannon, mortar and even rocket fires is a great combat multiplier for maneuver forces. There is a lot of capability for artillery. It’s a fairly maneuverable piece of equipment. People don’t think that because they see a big truck pulling it around, and they think it can’t move very far very fast. With the [Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement], that’s a pretty capable platform with a lot of power. It can move through pretty much everything. If we can drag the howitzer there, we’ll be able to provide fire support. That’s the most important thing. We will figure out a way to get the fire support to where it needs to be to support the infantry. They yell; we shell. They need us; we’ll be there.

Q.) How flexible is artillery when it comes to carrying out missions that may call for more than fire support?
A.) All Marines are riflemen. One of the things that artillery takes very seriously is that role in being able to provide that rifleman skillset and be able to augment the infantry as necessary. Throughout history, we’ve done that, whether it was Saipan or Okinawa, Vietnam or Fallujah. That’s the type of thing that artillery has done, and will continue to do. So, whatever calls the division commander or the commandant make, we’ll gladly answer it and stand ready. That’s our job.