II MHG armorers on lock down

12 Oct 2006 | Sgt. Tracee L. Jackson

When a car breaks down, it is brought to a mechanic.  When someone breaks their leg, they go to a doctor.  When a Marine’s rifle fails to fire after a reasonable attempt to address the problem, the Marine knows the exact remedy; the rifle visits the armorer.

The eight-man team of the II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, II MEF armory, works around the clock to make sure the trigger clicks, the hammer falls and the bullet flies every time.  With II MEF gearing up for another year fighting the Global War on Terrorism, the task of keeping inventory weapons in check is paramount.

“From what I’ve heard Marines say when they think about the armory, they think we’re here cleaning weapons,” said Cpl. Francisco J. Rodriguez, II MHG armorer. “We almost never do that.  We’re basically here making sure they’re good to go and deployable.”

In addition to inspection, repair and maintenance of more than 4,000 weapons in the armory, these few Marines are charged with constant accountability and security enabling II MHG Marines constant access to their tools of war.

“With us being the MHG, with all the consolidated armories here, we’re doing most of the training,” said Martinez, explaining each training evolution that entails weaponry requires a trip to the armory, where he and his Marines issue the required weapons, which have been preinspected for safety and functionality. 

“We put in a lot of long hours,” added Rodriguez, who explained annual trips to the rifle range, Iraqi training teams and unit field training keeps his calendar full.

An armorer in the Marine Corps completes three months of small arms instruction at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. Afterward, the Marine is sent to a duty station where they become responsible for accounting every barrel, sling and bullet to pass through their armory.

“What’s unique is we all have different backgrounds, but we’re here doing the same job,” said Lance Cpl. David A. Martinez, a small arms repair technician for II MHG. “We all have certain weapons we’re really good with.  If we’re not good with one weapon, one of the other Marines here will help you out with it.  There’s a lot of teaching each other.”

Martinez accounts for weapons ranging from 9mm handguns to .50-caliber machine guns.  Having served more than a year in the Marine Corps, he is considered one of the unit’s resident experts on the weapons carried by Marines in his unit.

“The most satisfying part of the job is when a weapon goes down and you’re able to fix it and get it back up and running again,” said Martinez.

“You have to have a lot of attention to detail to what you’re doing,” said Lance Cpl. Orlin Plaza, a heavy equipment mechanic augmented to the armory after serving 12 months in Iraq. 

As the armory custodian, Plaza keeps a paper trail on activities at the armory and handles personal issuing of weapons.

“It’s a good experience,” he said.  “Here, you learn by doing. You’re in charge of the whole unit’s weapons accountability and make sure they can get their job done.  You have to be here for the training teams,” he added.

When asked what keeps him motivated through his extended working hours, Rodriguez replied, “knowing the Marines are counting on us to make sure these weapons are functional and ready to go when they need them.”

The Marines of the II MHG armory provide units throughout the II MEF with enabling firepower when and where it’s needed.