148 Commando Forward Observation Battery
The 148 (Meiktla) Cdo. F/O Btry. is an elite unit of highly trained Naval Gunfire Forward Observers (NGFO). Unit members are drawn from both the Army and Royal Navy (RN). Radio operators are recruited from the Royal Navy, while gunners are drawn from the Royal Artillery (RA), with most unit support personnel bring drawn from the Army. Assigned to the Royal Marines (RM) 3 Commando Brigade (3 Cdo. Bde.), the unit provides teams of forward observers and radio operators to both conventional and special operations units.
Originally formed during World War 2, the unit would eventually evolve into the 95 Forward Observation Unit (95 FOU). In 1975 the unit was reduced to its current size and colocated with the SBS at Royal Marines Poole. It was tasked with providing FO teams to the Royal Marines, the Parachute Regiment; the Allied Mobile Force (Land)-AMF(L) and the SBS. The smaller sized unit soon found it was unable to meet its many obligations.
With the Argentine invasion of the Falklands, the unit found itself speeding toward the South Atlantic. Operating alongside both the SAS and SBS, the teams soon proved their worth. The skills of the commando trained unit were in high demand as commanders rediscovered their usefulness. FO teams were rushed about the island as the British pushed their way toward the capital at Port Stanley. FO teams poured carefully placed artillery fire and air strikes onto Argentine positions in support of every major British assault. With the Argentine surrender the unit returned to its home.
The 148 Btry. consists of radio operators, gunners, and a support staff. All prospective volunteers must first complete the Royal Marine's commando course, parachute selection and then the basic parachute course. After being selected they then undergo six months of basic naval gunfire training. During the course troops are trained in advanced communications, Morse code, adjusting both naval gunfire and artillery, forward air control techniques, and helicopter operations, including helicopter rappels. Upon completion of the course the new Naval Gunfire Assistant (NGA) will be assigned to a forward observation team.
Once a NGA has gained some operational experience and proved himself to senior unit members, he may be selected to undergo amphibious training. During amphibious training NGA's are trained as divers and boat coxswains. They also receive training in small boat operations, long range surface navigation, and conducting parachute drops into the water. Most training is conducted at night, as this would be the primary environment a FO would have to operate in.
The unit conducts training in various exercises and climates. It regularly deploys with other RM units to Norway for cold weather training and to Belize for jungle warfare training. They have also cross trained with the USMC's ANGLICO units to help standardize procedures should the units ever work together in combat.
FO teams consist of five men; a RA captain leads each team with a RN bombardiers the second in command (2IC). The rest of the team consists of a RN radio operator, a lance bombardier, and a RA gunner. The team can be split in two with the bombardier commanding one team and the captain the other. All unit members are capable of coordinating are strikes and directing artillery fire.
The unit is equipped with the latest British night vision and targeting equipment. They are trained in the use of laser target designators (LTDs). Unit members are primarily armed with British produced rifles, but many seem to prefer US produced M-16 series weapons. They also carry GPMGs and M-16/M-203s for fire support.