For the first time in combat, the Marine Corps fired a round in anger through the 120mm mortar system dubbed the Expeditionary Fire Support System, or EFSS.
In support of the International Security Assistance Force, Marines with F Battery, Battalion Landing Team 3/8, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Regimental Combat Team 2, fired the new 120mm mortar system from Combat Outpost Ouellette, Helmand province, Afghanistan.I've been covering the Marine Corps long enough to remember the genesis of this program back in 2001 when the Corps' 15th MEU established the first FOB in Afghanistan at Camp Rhino. At the time, and for a long time after that, Marine planner complained that they had no substantial expeditionary heavy artillery. Thus the EFSS was born -- a compromise between a 155mm Howitzer and a 60mm mortar.
The first rounds fired from EFSS in support of combat operations was a M1105 illumination projectile, used to light an area occupied by snipers attached to Company I, BLT 3/8. Illumination denies any enemy concealment in darkness and deters nighttime emplacement of improvised explosive devices.
But then the poobahs took control and tied the future of the EFSS with the then-troubled MV-22, requiring that the mortar system be part of this whole trailer doohicky that attached to little jeep like thing that could all fit in the belly of an MV-22. So the delays began.
Nearly a decade later, the Corps finally has its 120 mortar in Afghanistan -- three years before we're supposed to be out of there. Meanwhile the Army has had a 120 as their primary combat outpost artillery support weapon for years. They've had the simple, lightweight M120 since 1991.
Well, better late than never, huh?
Happy President's Day weekend folks!