Steel Knight exercise tests 1st Marine Division

Exercise involved 10,000 Marines from two bases

OCEANSIDE, Calif. - For the better part of a week, Marines from Camp Pendleton and 29 Palms are taking part in Steel Knight, a massive exercise designed to test the readiness and capability of Marines to come ashore from the sea.

"The Marines in 29 Palms are fighting at the same time we are fighting here,' said Marine 1st Division Col. Scott Wertz from an overlook at Red Beach on Camp Pendleton.

The idea is to coordinate the assault on two fronts over a wide area.

At Camp Pendleton, Marines first hit the beach in amphibious assault vehicles capable of carrying roughly 20 Marine infantry.

The AAV carries a 50-caliber machine gun as well as a Mark 19 fully automatic grenade launcher.

"We can put power on the beach and secure it relatively fast," said 2nd Lt. Conner Murphy.

Once the beachhead was secured, more Marines followed in Landing Craft Air Cushions, or LCACs.

"The idea is that we are showing up on an empty beach where we have to establish security, a perimeter and communications for a larger amphibious force to follow," said Wertz.

Smaller units have been able to do this periodically, but this marks the first time in a long while that that an entire division is taking part.

"We have about 25,000 in the 1st Division, and roughly 10,000 are participating both here and at 29 Palms," said Major Gen. Ronald Bailey, the division commanding officer.

However, 29 Palms offers one ability that Camp Pendleton cannot -- live fire, including artillery and tanks.

The exercise will wrap up sometime next week.

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