MASS-1 improves squadron readiness
By Cpl. J. R. Heins, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point
Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune -- More than 50 Marines with Marine Air Support Squadron 1 conducted M240B machine gun and M1014 combat shotgun training during a field exercise at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Aug. 25.
The purpose of the range was to train Marines to qualify as instructors within the squadron using different weapon systems, said 1st Lt. Phillip Thome, an air support control officer with MASS-1.
"The reason we are conducting this range is to familiarize our Marines with the different weapons systems that MASS-1 holds in its arsenal," said Thome, a prior infantry machine-gunner.
The Marine Corps emphasizes basic skills, said Thome, the officer-in-charge of the range. Having Marines who are capable of effectively employing the different weapons systems will help prepare the Marines of the squadron for deployment.
"The squadron now has 20 noncommissioned officers certified as range safety officers," said Thome, a native of Omaha, Neb. "Having these empowered Marines makes us more self-reliant."
Instructors within MASS-1 help junior Marines develop their combat skills, said Sgt. Samuel Westbrook, a tactical data systems administrator with the squadron. Most of the junior Marines have not been able to get hands-on with any weapon systems since their initial training at Marine Combat Training.
"After receiving instruction and certification, it is our job to pass on the knowledge to our Marines," said Westbrook.
As the Marine Corps shifts focus to return to its amphibious roots, the squadron plans to continue building on the basics of combat readiness, said Westbrook, a native of Sylvester, Ga.
"Our squadron, for the past decade, has been mainly supporting the aviation combat element, but traditionally we were with the ground combat element," said Westbrook. "As a squadron, we need to be ready to support everyone, which means maintaining standards for each Marine, not just in their military occupational specialty, but as a whole."