MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- In the pouring rain and gusty winds with temperatures as low as 39 degrees, Marines kept warm in 70-tons of steel as they lit up targets on Range SR-10 at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Jan. 13, 2015.
Marines with Tank Platoon, Company B, Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force, conducted live-fire gunnery training in preparation for their upcoming assessment at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California.
Tank Platoon Marines rolled out to gun positions with 70-ton M1A1 Abrams tanks, complete with a 120 mm main gun, a .50-caliber machine gun, M240 coaxial machine gun, and M240E machine gun to engage targets in the offense and defense in order to grasp the basic skills of tank gunnery, and work together as a team.
“While out in the field, we are trying to get more experience in firing at moving targets, stationary targets, troops, and personnel carriers in order to prepare ourselves for our upcoming evaluation,” said Sgt. Michelle A. Svec, tank crewman with Tank Platoon, Company B, GCEITF. “This allows us to get more unit cohesion in between the crews, and get more experience amongst the crews as far as the driver, loader, gunner and tank commander.”
Before the Marines start firing, they are given a brief from the tank commander, whose job it is to inform the rest of the crew of the current situation, enemy threats, and once the brief concludes, the crew starts preparing their stations and get into position ready to engage targets, said Svec.
“The crews are evaluated on their ability to pull up and engage targets quickly, and get back down into a defilade position to not expose the tank to enemy fire,” said Staff Sgt. Eric W. Hill, master gunner with Tank Platoon, Company B, GCEITF. “The quicker they (execute), the more points they get toward their engagement time in accordance to their overall evaluation.”
Marines engaged targets in both defensive and offensive positions. If the Marines are in an offensive engagement, they are trained to shoot whatever they see first; so if they see a troop target vice a hard target, they’ll shoot the troop target first. From the defense, the Marines should first engage a more dangerous target before moving to a less dangerous target. For example, if they have a personnel carrier up, and troops up, the Marines should engage the personnel carrier because it poses a greater threat to them then the troops on the ground, according to Hill.
“The Marines are progressing pretty well,” said Hill. “They started out pretty rough and as they transitioned into each engagement downrange, they’re learning little by little because this is the only time that they are going to actually get the chance to do live fire. With that, there are little things they can go over in training, but it won’t show until they actually put the rounds downrange. Day by day, they’re transitioning more, learning more, and adapting better.”
From October 2014 to July 2015, the GCEITF will conduct individual and collective level skills training in designated ground combat arms occupational specialties in order to facilitate the standards based assessment of the physical performance of Marines in a simulated operating environment performing specific ground combat arms tasks.