USS RUSHMORE -- Marines in the rear generally have ample training time to prepare themselves for combat and sustain the skills they already possess. However, while deployed at-sea with a Marine Expeditionary Unit, Marines and sailors have to take advantage of any time they can step unto the firing line.
During the 15th MEU’s deployment, Marines assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 15, 15th MEU, conducted a live-fire exercise aboard USS Rushmore, April 27. The servicemembers fired more than 14,000 rounds to ensure everyone was proficient with all of the battalion’s weapon systems.
The flight deck was filled with weapons including Humvees sporting .50 caliber machine guns, a line of M240B machine guns, 9mm pistols, .50 caliber Special Application Scoped Rifles [SASR], as well as Marines’ individual M16 or M4 service weapons. Marines and sailors were able to fire at least two weapon systems during the shoot, sending rounds downrange at paper targets and into the Pacific Ocean.
“We used this time to conduct proper weapons training for the entire battalion,” said Staff Sgt. Aaron J. Weakley, engineer operations chief, Engineer Detachment, CLB-15, 15th MEU. “Using all weapons we would use in Afghanistan, we ensured Marines sustained their proficiency in these essential weapons.”
This was the first time for many months that the battalion was able to fire their weapons. It was important for the Marines and sailors to load their weapons and shoot, because like any skill, marksmanship must be continuously practiced to ensure expertise.
“The last time we were able to conduct any form of live-fire was in Kuwait,” said Weakly. “It’s good to train and keep fresh in mind the skills they learned. If you train often, the actions become second nature. We keep doing this to improve our skills.”
The most popular weapon system during the shoot was the Barrett M82 sniper rifle. The long-range sniping system, that has an effective range of more than 1,800 meters, packs a kick. For many, it was their first time firing the high-powered weapon.
“This was my first time firing the SASR,” said Cpl. Brent I. Kroh, radio maintenance technician, Maintenance Detachment, CLB-15, 15th MEU. “It was something I’ve always wanted to do even before I joined the Marine Corps. I always try to shoot everything I can. I think it’s important to have that variety of experience. You never know what situation you get into or weapon you may have to use. It’s good to have an individual sense of each weapon,” added the 22-year-old native of New York, Pa.
After the smoke cleared and the barrels cooled, the Marines cleared away the thousands of brass shell casings littering the flight deck. For many, it was a chance to refresh their skills in the weapons they have shot dozens of times. For a few, it was the ability to cross-train with weapons unfamiliar but essential to the battalion.
The 15th MEU is comprised of approximately 2,400 Marines and sailors and is deployed as part of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group. Together, they provide a forward-deployed, flexible sea-based Marine Air Ground Task Force capable of conducting a wide variety of operations ranging from humanitarian aid to combat.