While a sizable portion of you are probably aware that the U.S. military and its allies are flying missions over Syria, and a good chunk of you are probably aware that U.S. special forces are running around and fucking ISIS up, you might not be aware that a whole Marine Corps artillery unit deployed to Syria as well. And it’s been busy.
The guns fired by the 400 Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, normally deployed with the USS Makin Island amphibious assault ship, managed to fire more than 4,500 rounds at the Islamic State group, the unit’s spokesman told the Marine Corps Times:
Marine Corps officials were tight-lipped on Wednesday when talking to reporters about the 11th MEU’s contributions to operations in Syria and elsewhere. Thomas said that the number of artillery rounds the Marines fired in Syria was the one statistic he was allowed to share.
“It’s an ongoing operation,” Thomas said during a roundtable discussion. “We have another Marine unit that’s there – to my knowledge, they have not released that name, so we’ll let [Operation Inherent Resolve] do that. It’s not exactly an established theater as Iraq or Afghanistan was.”
Furthermore it turns out the 11th MEU has been carrying out other missions that it can’t talk about publicly, but from the looks if it, there have been some missions in Yemen. The Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey that crashed back in February, was also from the Makin Island, the Marine Corps Times points out.
The Marines have been in Syria since at least March 8th, when defense officials first informed the Washington Post of their deployment. And if we assume for a minute that that’s when the Marines started firing their howitzers, then they’ve fired over 56 shells a day at ISIS.
Add that to the aircraft, and the Army, Navy, and Air Force special forces members fighting in Syria already, and it sounds like Syria is becoming more of an “established theater” every day.
UPDATE: Chris, a reader who served in the Marine Corps Reserve as an artilleryman, wrote in and clarified that the Marines in Syria actually could have fired a lot more rounds, if the mission called for it:
56 rounds a day out an arty battery is slow as hell, and not that impressive. A firing arty battery should be a 24-hour operation when it is busy, and it is usually made up of four guns. So, 56 a day is 2.333 rounds an hour. Spread that across four guns, and some guns aren’t shooting. I’d be interested in how many fire missions the battery as run and an average of rounds per mission. That would give you a better idea of how busy they are, but based on the low number of rounds overall, I would argue not very.
Even if you compress the “work day” down to a day light only affair, a 14-ish hour day ups the number of rounds per hour. But that is touching the sustained rate of fire per minute of the old M-198 I used to shoot. Still a very slow day by artillery standards. I would wager a guess that the “light-weight” M-777 they use now is better and can maintain a better rate of fire without over heating as much.
I heard tales that the opening days of Iraq in 2003 were a glorious artillery barrage, bordering on thousands of rounds a day of out a single battery. But being a reservist we were tasked with mortuary affairs, and I missed out on all that “pull string, go boom” fun.
Correction: The original photo used in this post actually featured Australian Army soldiers, not American Marines. I screwed that up, and apologies to all. It’s fixed now. Those are now definitely American Marines.