MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Marines of Headquarters and Service Company, 8th Communications Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force, began pre-deployment training recently, to enhance the combat readiness of the Marines potentially deploying in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“It’s money and time well spent out here,” said Gunnery Sgt. Raymond B. Groover, an electronics maintenance technician with the battalion. “It’s a great training evolution. Anytime Marines get a chance to shoot their weapons, put rounds down range and learn something that could possibly save their lives and the lives of their fellow Marines, it is well worth the investment. With this training, they will be able to put their weapons up and react.”
The exercise began with three days of Enhanced Marksmanship Program training taught by Marine combat veterans from Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division. These Marines have plenty of combat experience, easily making them qualified to not only teach the course but also share personal stories and advice to the attentive Marines from 8th Comm. Bn.
EMP training is conducted to sharpen and enhance combat marksmanship skills, to help the Marines become proficient in weapons handling, increase combat survivability, and to develop individual proficiency operating in a combat environment. The program included lectures, dry-fire practices and live-fire exercises.
Lectures given throughout the program covered combat mindset, fundamentals of combat marksmanship, ballistics, immediate target engagement and methods of target engagement.
“We teach the things that Marines might see over in Iraq and be expected to react to,” said Sgt. Scott B. Green, section leader with Mobile Assault Unit 1, Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, who led the EMP instruction. “It gets the Marines behind the weapons and gets them focused.”
“It’s very beneficial training, because you never know when you’ll get augmented out to (an infantry) unit and actually have to use these skills,” said Sgt. Michael C. Williams, a satellite communications technician with 8th Comm. Bn.
The program was a large help in teaching Marines to become familiar with their weapons again. For the majority of the Marines taking the course, this was the first opportunity to handle and fire their weapons in quite some time. Not being in the infantry can lead to prolonged periods of time without sending rounds down range.
“Honestly, these Marines mostly concentrate on their military occupational specialty…they don’t get out in the field enough,” said Sgt. Christopher N. Bianca, the headquarters platoon sergeant with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, and EMP instructor.
“Overall, I think this training is very important, not just for non-infantry Marines, but for infantry Marines because combat skills are a perishable trade,” said Sgt. Alexander I. Bartlett, a mortar man with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, and EMP instructor. “Going to a rifle range once a year doesn’t make you a proficient rifleman.”
Each instructor of the program highlighted the different aspects of the training they felt were important. Communication between Marines in a combat environment, reiteration of the basic fundamentals of marksmanship, getting used to handling the weapon, magazine retention, speed and confidence were the topics the instructors felt were the most crucial.
The training continued the following week with two days of convoy operations and security training, ending with weapons training on the M240G medium machine gun and the M2 .50 caliber heavy machine gun.
“Each individual Marine has a job to do in a convoy,” said Gunnery Sgt. Joel B. Burton, motor transport maintenance chief with Headquarters and Service Company, 8th Comm. Bn., who was the lead instructor for the convoy operations and weapons training. “It’s not just riding in the back of a truck.”
“We’ll have something to resort back to, to keep us from going in there blind sided,” said Williams. “The better prepared you are, the better job you’ll do and the more alert you will be in aggressive situations.”
Overall, most of the Marines in training felt positive about the instruction they received.
“It was good quality training, no nonsense, focusing on the important things that need to be taught,” Groover said.
In the end, the instructors were satisfied with the execution of all the exercises.
“I was very surprised,” said Bianca. “They actually did better than I expected. They came out here; they were all motivated and ready to run, retained the knowledge and worked together in full force.”
“Groups like this one that come out here are always way more motivated,” said Green speaking of non-infantry Marines that don’t have the chance to shoot as often. “These are Marines that want to learn.”
Burton summed it up the best when he said, “a lot of the information we get in the Marine Corps is shoved down our throats early on and then you have a brain dump before you get out into the fleet. All of this becomes a refresher course; you see light bulbs turning on everywhere.”
“These Marines know the stuff, they’re just refreshing their minds,” said Burton about instructing the Marines.