ABOARD THE USS GERMANTOWN -- Marines from Company B, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), Camp Pendleton, Calif., are currently taking a machine gunners course during the MEU’s final weeks of their deployment July 3-20.
Known as the BLT 1/4 Machine Gun Leaders Course, it is comprised of tactics, techniques, sight alignment, practical application and exams. The instruction focuses on three different weapons systems: the M240G Medium Machine Gun, the M2 .50 Caliber Machine Gun and the MK19 40mm Machine Gun.
“If you all deploy next year, I guarantee that you will be using these weapons systems,” said Staff Sgt. Evan W. Clayton, staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the course, to the Marines during their first day of class.
One of the most common things that a Marine does when deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan is security, according Sgt. Gregory Henry, chief instructor of the course.
“Whether it be doing security in the FOB (Forward Operating Base) or manning a turret on a humvee during a convoy, the Marines will be providing security,” said Henry. “That usually means manning some type of automatic weapon.”
Most of the Marines in the class are basic riflemen, also known as 0311s. Although they can disassemble and re-assemble an M-16A4 Service Rifle faster than most Marines can remember what their sixth general order is, they are not thoroughly sped up on how to properly employ a weapon such as the “Golf,” MK-19 or .50 Cal.
“We want to show them all how to properly employ these weapons in the environments that they will be going in,” said Henry, who was also an instructor at the School of Infantry’s Machine Gunners Advanced Infantry Training Course.
The Marines will definitely benefit from this formal course, said Clayton. “Hopefully there will be plenty of sustainment training between now and the end of the course.”
Across the classroom, the most common ranks on Marines’ collars are that of lance corporal and private first class. By their next deployment these “boots” will hold key positions in their squads, their platoons and their company.
“This is part of our training to be better Marines,” said Lance Cpl. Juan J. Barragan, assistant SAW gunner, 3rd squad, 1st platoon. “This is the stuff we need to know if we deploy next year.”