Photo Information

A Marine with 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment participating in Reconnaissance Selection Occupation and Position training, uses an aiming circle during a section chief’s course aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., Aug. 6, 2015. The aiming circles orient the mortar, making sure the mortar will accurately provide supporting fire. The Marines undergoing section chief’s course will potentially be in charge of a team of five Marines and an artillery weapon system once returning to the unit. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Chris Garcia/Released)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Chris Garcia

Train to lead: 2/10 Marines participate in section chief’s course

6 Aug 2015 | Lance Cpl. Chris Garcia II Marine Expeditionary Force

A select group of Marines with 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment are undergoing an artillery section chief’s course aboard Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, July 13-Aug. 12, 2015.

The nearly five-week long training evolution teaches students proper functioning of the M252 and M327 Mortars and M777A2 Howitzer in preparation for becoming section chiefs. According to students, becoming a section chief requires acute knowledge of both the weapon system and the Marines operating.

“The section chief is responsible for the Marines in his section for the safe firing of the weapon systems,” said Cpl. Hayden Jolly, a field artillery cannoneer and course student. “You’re in charge of eight to 10 Marines, all of their gear, and their lives. It’s a big responsibility.”

Typically, a section chief oversees a team of five Marines, all of which have different tasks and responsibilities when firing their specific weapon system. He directs the gunner, who manipulates the sights and traversing and elevating hand wheels and the assistant gunner, who loads the rounds into the chamber and fires the weapon. The fourth and fifth Marines within the section are responsible for delivering and tracking all ammunition.

Before learning to take charge, the students ran back through the basics in order to cement the proper fundamentals.

“[We’re learning] everything from basic nomenclature and parts of the weapons systems to ammunition, verifying safety standards and preventative maintenance,” said Cpl. Taylor Roepke, a field artillery cannoneer and course student.

The course progressed by teaching the Marines more nuanced techniques of the different artillery weapon systems, helping transfer the skills practiced into real-world training and potential operations.

“Having more section chiefs brings more knowledge to the unit,” said Roepke. “Even if you aren’t given charge of a weapon immediately, you’ll help improve your section’s efficiency, both in garrison and in combat.”

“We train as we fight,” said Jolly. “When we’re training and conducting fire missions, it’s just as if we were in a combat situation. Of course there’s more stress in a combat scenario, but under stress, you revert back to your basic training, which this course prepares you for.”

The students are scheduled to graduate Aug. 12. Not all of the graduates will take command of weapon system once leaving the course, but the Marines say the newly-learned skills will benefit their unit, no matter which tasks they’re assigned.