Marine Corps Artillery Officer Life
Ever wondered what it's like to be a Marine Corps Artillery Officer (0802)? Then check out the information below supplied by current Artillery Officers and the Marine MOS Handbook.
Artillery is an exciting and demanding combat-arms MOS. The Mission of Marine Artillery is “to furnish close and continuous fire support by neutralizing, destroying or suppressing targets which threaten the success of the supported unit.” Accomplishment of this mission requires technical expertise and dynamic leadership.
2. What is this MOS like?
Marine artillery officers lead Marines in tactics, gunnery, gun-line drill, communications, maintenance, transportation, and logistics. In fire support, they work closely with the supported maneuver units: infantry, light armored reconnaissance, and tanks. Artillery is an equipment intensive and technical MOS. Yet, it is similar to the infantry, both in mission and in daily activities. The experience you gain in these varying duties will give you a well-rounded familiarity with most MOSs in the Corps. If you are a well-rounded Marine officer and you like complex challenges that are a combination of technical and leadership problems, then you will like artillery.
3. What will I do after TBS before I get to my first billet?
Upon graduation from TBS, you will report to the Field Artillery Officers Basic Course (FAOBC) at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Assigned to the Marine Detachment Fort Sill, you will study with Army second lieutenants the disciplines of fire support, fire direction, tactics, gunnery, communications, logistics, vehicular land navigation, and battery operations.
FAOBC classes start throughout the year but do not always coincide with TBS graduations. You may experience a delay after TBS or you might have to leave Quantico early to report to Fort Sill. If you are delayed, you might be assigned to temporary duty to conduct on the job training with your future battalion.
Academics are tough at Fort Sill. Marines regularly finish as honor graduates and are expected to be in the top percentiles. You will form friendships within the artillery community that will last your entire career.
4. What will my first tour be like?
When you report to the operating forces, you will be assigned to a firing battery within an artillery battalion. The primary jobs for a lieutenant are Forward Observer (FO), Guns Platoon Commander (AXO), Fire Direction Officer (FDO), Liaison Officer (LNO), and Executive Officer (XO). Rarely will you have the opportunity to fill all of these primary billets. But, in order to gain MOS experience (and credibility) it is important that you serve in both the battery position and in a fire support billet.
From the small unit integrity of a four man FO team to the responsibility of a sixty-five man platoon, every billet in the battery is an opportunity to lead. FO’s are attached to the supported maneuver company HQ to coordinate artillery fires within the company Fire Support Team (FST). The XO runs the battery; he is responsible for the execution of the CO’s intent for training, maintenance and for execution of the mission. The FDO is responsible for the technical application of gunnery determined in the Fire Direction Center. He is generally the HQ platoon commander. The AXO is the platoon commander for the six howitzer sections and is the alternate to the XO and the FDO in the firing position. He has the opportunity to execute both of their duties. The LNO is in charge of the liaison section, which includes the FO teams, and he provides advice on the employment of artillery to the supported maneuver commander in the Fire Support Coordination Center (FSCC).
On a regular day in garrison, you begin your day around 0600 for PT. A typical day in “the rear” is generally scheduled from 0730 till 1630, with a break from 1130 to 1300. You will train, conduct maintenance, counsel, and prepare for future exercises and operations during this time. You will also work, as a collateral duty officer, with a SNCO expert and provide leadership to your respective section(s). The Motor Transport Officer (MTO) manages the maintenance and readiness of more than forty pieces of rolling stock and its associated gear. The Supply Officer works with the Battalion “SuppO” officer to ensure readiness and accountability of battery gear and to prepare the battery for deployments. The Communications Officer oversees the maintenance and accountability of over twenty radio sets, computers, and associated vehicles, antennas, and gear. You can anticipate changing some or all of your duties every six to twelve months.
During your tour, you will probably go on at least one six month deployment and several month long field ops; additionally, you will go to the field during the week several times a quarter. Couple that schedule with the leadership expected of a small unit leader and you will find yourself prioritizing carefully and dedicating a lot of time to your unit and to your men.
Some common non-firing battery assignments for an artillery lieutenant are S-3A, S-3B, S-4A, HQ battery CO/ XO, MEU Targeting Information Officer (TIO), and Base Range Control Officer.
5. Where might I go after my first tour?
After their first two to four year “fleet” tour, artillery officers, along with other combat arms officers typically go on a two to three year B-billet. Although there are too many opportunities to list, some common billets for artillerymen are Enlisted Recruiting and Officer Selection Officers, Recruit Depots in Parris Island and San Diego, Instructor Duty at OCS, Fort Sill and TBS, and Marine Corps Security Forces and Security Guard duties (all over the world).
Before you return to the operating forces for your second “fleet” tour, you will most likely attend one of three career level Professional Military Education (PME) courses. Amphibious Warfare School and Command & Control Systems Course, in Quantico, are ten-month schools that develop officers from every MOS in their MAGTF skills. The Field Artillery Captain’s Career Course (FACCC), in Fort Sill Oklahoma, is a six-month school that instructs Army and Marine officers in advanced gunnery, fire support, and regiment and higher level operations.
The Professional Artillery Refresher Training (PART) is a three week course held every spring at Fort Sill for officers returning to artillery from outside the operating forces, who did not complete the FACCC.
Field Artillery is a close-knit community imbued with a distinct heritage unlike any other MOS in the Corps. Artillery officers are renowned for their professionalism, diligence and love for the art and science of their trade.
Remember the power you felt firing the .50 caliber Heavy Machine Gun? Imagine yourself giving the command to “Fire!” and feeling the thunder as six eight ton cannons simultaneously hurl six hundred pounds of steel up to eighteen miles down range. Once you have the opportunity to either fire, or call for fire, you will truly understand why artillery is “The King of Battle”.