MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- “Look left, look right, back-blast area all clear!” shouts a Marine, telling his partner he is clear to shoot. “Rocket!” responds the gunner before firing a high-explosive projectile at a vehicle-shaped target 225 meters away.
More than 70 Marines with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment participated in a live-fire rocket range using the AT-4 anti-tank weapon, the Mk-153 shoulder-launched multipurpose assault weapon and the M-72 light anti-tank weapon at training area GP-19 aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, May 5, 2015.
The various rocket launchers have maximum effective ranges of 200-500 meters for stationary targets and may be used to destroy established positions, bunkers and vehicles ranging from the T-55 to the T-72 main battle tanks, as well as other former Soviet vehicles.
The training allowed Marines to become more familiar using the weapon systems they are required to operate so they will be better prepared to meet the needs of the Marine Corps.
“They need confidence in what they’re doing,” said Sgt. Bret Whitt, a platoon sergeant with the unit and a native of Brooksville, Florida. “More time and practice doing what they’re supposed to be is going to build that confidence and get them ready to support the company as needed.”
While gaining confidence was a key portion of the training, the unit also had another focus.
Many Marines have recently joined the unit from the School of Infantry or the now deactivated 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment. Because of the influx of new Marines, it was imperative to get the Marines working together as a team during the training.
“The Marine Corps itself is like a brotherhood,” said 1st Lt. Ryan Murray, the officer in charge of the training and a native of Baltimore, Maryland. “[To get] these guys to go into a combat environment together, they need to have that working relationship. Doing a live-fire with high-explosives… really increases that bond between the gun teams and that’s absolutely critical for us.”
The unit is slated to deploy as part of the Black Sea Rotational Force next year and are focusing on honing their skills and becoming a more cohesive team.
“They still have some kinks to work out, but all the leadership we’ve got across the board has been working with [the new members] and spending extra time with individuals as needed,” Whitt said.