MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Behind door number three, in a space that lodges close to 400 weapons, armorers of 2nd Radio Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force, make sure Marines get the assistance and equipment they need to train and prepare to fight the war on terror.
As sounds of country music echoed throughout the armory, Lance Cpl. Fredrick A. Forrester, small arms repair technician, placed an M16-A2 service rifle back on the shelf. Marines throughout the battalion trust armorers with their rifles, what is often considered the single, most important piece of metal they take into battle. Every Marine is taught that the rifle is the difference between life and death, victory and defeat.
Forrester, from Newtown, Conn., has served his country for more than two years. He grew up around guns and said he always wanted to know what made them work. He spent three months of military occupational specialty school at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md.
He shares responsibilities with Lance Cpl. Brencent T. Berry, from Tuskegee, Ala. These two junior Marines are relied upon to keep track of weapons, repair and replace parts, transport weapons, provide security and make sure everything runs smoothly.
“It gets a little hectic in here. Sometimes the stress level goes up when there’s a long line outside and there’s a lot of paper work to do, but whatever it is we handle it and make sure it gets done. Afterward, we’ll talk about it and figure what we can do better,” Forrester said about the working environment. However, he admits, the biggest problem the two face is their choice of music.
“I can’t take that country everyday,” Berry said with a smirk. “There is even a hip-hop country song about rodeo.”
However, Berry and Forrester realize that music is not a big deal when their fellows Marines are in war zones all over the world fighting the global war on terror. Berry said he is not sure what to expect if he deploys later this year, but knows he has an important job to do.
Forrester deployed last February to Iraq. He was able to discuss what it is like to do his job in a combat environment, including what it is like to work under the constant threat of mortars.
“Things happen a lot faster in Iraq and we fix a lot more weapons. Rifles break more often when Marines are running around and diving on the ground,” Forrester recalled. Despite the long days and sleepless nights, Forrester said he was proud to have had the chance to be a part of the war effort and looks forward to going back.
Berry, like Forrester, who grew up hunting and fishing, realize the importance of their job and what it means to the entire Corps, but also maintain their sense of humor.
“We make the boomsticks go boom,” said Berry. “You can’t be out there throwing rocks,” he joked as he removed the Beretta 9mm pistol from his holster.
Berry’s task of the day was delivering squad automatic weapons to the rifle range. “There were some Marines from our battalion getting a class on the SAW, so it’s part of my job to make sure the weapons get there safely,” he said.
Weapons and their capabilities will always change. Knives will get sharper and rifles will shoot further, but the armorers will always have the same mission – ensure the weapons are functional so that the mission of Marine Corps can continue to be accomplished. After all, there are many rifles in the world, but a Marine’s rifle is his best friend. Many Marines even give their rifle a name and talk to it. This helps solidify the fact that the weapon is real -an extension of the Marine. So whether the rifle is a girlfriend, a hero or a “boomstick”, Marines in 2nd Radio Bn, II MEF, can rest assured that it is being protected and ready for battle when the time comes.