MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- More than 40 Marines with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, conducted a live-fire mortar exercise with 81 mm mortar systems, Jan. 21, in preparation for the unit’s upcoming deployment to Okinawa, Japan.
The Marines began shelling targets at varying ranges with precision and speed, firing volleys of one round per fire mission, up to six shots consecutively. The six gun crews operated simultaneously, delivering rounds as the commands were given.
“As an 81 mm platoon, our mission is to deliver rounds to a given location in a timely and accurate manner in support of our infantry units,” said Staff Sgt. Aaron Newton, the 81 mm mortars platoon sergeant. “We are training today to solidify the Marines’ muscle memory with the mortars until we become a well-oiled machine, working as one to accomplish the mission.”
Commanding a crew of four, each squad leader directed his Marines to ensure that they completed their fire missions smoothly and in the fastest manner possible. The assistant gunners loaded and fired the weapons while ensuring that the firing did not move the barrel enough to affect accuracy. The gunners, likewise, calibrated the mortars to launch at the correct coordinates and receive hit confirmations after every round. The fourth crewman, an ammunition Marine, prepared each round before use.
“When assigned to a gun, each member of the crew stays with one another, from the time they are assigned until they are relieved,” said Lance Cpl. Brandon Hopkins, a mortarman and assistant gunner with the platoon. “Mortar platoons do this so that we can work on cohesion, to be as efficient as possible to accomplish the commander’s goals.”
Marines worked with the mortar systems until the late evening, sending more than 350 rounds down range, and accomplished their goal of having more than 90 percent of their rounds impact on their designated targets.
“I hope that my Marines walk away from this training more confident in themselves and their capabilities,” said 1st Lt. Chris Love, the platoon commander for 81 mm platoon. “We do this to be more proficient, to become better than before, and to accomplish the goals of the Marine Corps.”