Hundreds of troops, amphibious assault vehicles, light armored vehicles, and landing craft, air cushion, were involved in the massive training exercise, Steel Knight, at Camp Pendleton on Dec. 10. Photos by Rachel Stine
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Marines test the waters, land for Steel Knight exercise

OCEANSIDE — The first troops landed on Red Beach at Camp Pendleton in amphibious assault vehicles before sunrise on Tuesday, Dec. 10. Faces covered in camouflage paint, hands grasping tightly to firearms, the Marines crawled and dashed their way up an embankment.


They moved in packs up to a set of single-story empty buildings that served as a mock-up enemy town. Orders interlaced with curse words were called out amid shouts of “Bang! Bang! Bang!” Buildings were entered and quickly cleared one by one.

Naval ships and hover crafts followed, delivering more land vehicles to the beach.

Hundreds of troops from the 1st Marine Division participated in a large-scale training exercise on Camp Pendleton to practice amphibious landing. They are part of the 25,000 troops participating in a weeklong exercise, known as Steel Knight, which is designed for units to hone their war fighting capabilities.

1st Marine Division commanding general, Maj. Gen. Lawrence D. Nicholson, said that with operations in Afghanistan and Iraq winding down for the first time in 10 years, “The Marines are getting back to our roots, our amphibious operations.”

He said that the extensive exercise is necessary for troops to prepare for deployment by learning how to coordinate with numerous other units as well as sustain a large unit with food, fuel and equipment

Steel Knight is carried out annually, and the exercise has expanded considerably from last year, which involved only 18,000 troops practicing at Camp Pendleton.

This year, amphibious landing and long-range helicopter raids exercises are also being carried out at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, and Marine Corps Air Station Yuma throughout the week.

Marines load gear into an amphibious assault vehicle at the conclusion of one portion of the Steel Knight training exercise at Camp Pendleton. Photo by Rachel StineA Marine examines an actor playing an enemy assailant, while other Marines survey the exercise area for other fugitives. Photo by Rachel StineMarines lie low on an embankment, covering others who are running towards a mock enemy town on Camp Pendleton. Photo by Rachel StineA Marine radios other units with information as other troops dash around outside, clearing buildings, as part of the exercise. Photo by Rachel StineMarines dash into a building in the early morning light during a large-scale training exercise at Camp Pendleton. Photo by Rachel StineFour of 14 amphibious assault vehicles used in the drill make their way from Red Beach up to a mock-up enemy town shortly after sunrise. Photo by Rachel StineA U.S. Navy landing craft, air cushion, a type of hovercraft, skims the water of Red Beach at Camp Pendleton to deliver heavy equipment during Exercise Steel Knight. Photo by Rachel StineTwo U.S. Navy landing craft, air cushion, deflate on the beach before unloading vehicles and equipment. A light armored vehicle sails away from shore in the distance, having landed on the beach about an hour before. Photo by Rachel StineA Marine stands at the ready during Exercise Steel Knight at Camp Pendleton. Photo by Rachel StineA Marine crouches in the doorway with his weapon at the ready, guarding the entrance to a building with other Marines inside. Photo by Rachel Stine