NAVAL BASE GUAM, Guam -- From Sept. 12-13, 2013, the “China Marines” took turns shooting their M16-A4’s, M-4 Carbines and M249 squad automatic weapons at targets ranging in distances of 200 to 500 meters. Instead of merely sighting in shooting, Bravo Company added other challenges to the training.
Groups of half a dozen Marines, made their way to a starting position behind the firing line with 30 rounds of ammunition. The range officer in charge or range safety officer shouted “Begin!” The first task was 20 burpees in full combat protective gear.
“In real life, engaging an enemy threat isn’t as easy as marksmanship we do in the rear,” said Lance Cpl. Jacob R. Blair, a fire team leader with 1st Squad, 4th Platoon, Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 13th MEU and Tacoma, Wash. native. “Marching out here and doing [physical training] before we shoot just reminds us of how much harder combat can be.”
The Marines then had to move to the firing line to grab their weapons and sight in. Fire team and squad leaders called out distances and targets. Mid-way through each turn, the Marines had seconds to don gas masks, sight in and hit targets at a farther distance, further adding to the difficulty. Once given the all-clear, the shooters took their gas masks off and engaged other targets.
“Shooting with a gas mask is a challenge with all the different layers of plastic,” said Cpl. Christian G. Nay, an assault leader with 2nd Squad, 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 13th MEU and Naches, Wash. native. “This was my first time shooting with these types of masks and while it was tricky at first, I learned to instinctually hit my target. It got even tougher when we started shooting at night with the masks on.”
While the squads competed, others in the company practiced magazine reload drills and gas mask donning procedures to build muscle memory and gain speed against their brothers in arms.
“Whenever there’s an opportunity for Marines to get competitive it enhances the experience,” said 1st Lt. Sean Cusack, range officer in charge and 4th Platoon commander, Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 13th MEU and Columbus, Ohio native. “Since boot camp, Marines are trained competitively and Marines are competitive by nature. This is just a good way to train.”
In the end, Marines from 2nd Platoon claimed the most targets hit and earned themselves an early dismissal for liberty, time off to enjoy the locale and much needed rest.
Soon Bravo Company and the rest of USS Harpers Ferry will head further west and conduct more training in the coming weeks and months. Being part of a unit that is ready to respond to crisis means training to sustain their readiness for whatever lies ahead for “Fighting 13th”.
Marines and Sailors with 13th MEU will deploy for several months in support of theater requirements of Geographic Combatant Commanders.