Marines with Landing Force Company conducted a machine gun firing exercise May 23 aboard the USS Tortuga (LSD 46) in the South China Sea.
Refreshing skills for Marines and introducing the weapon to Sailors, shipboard training provides a productive means to utilize time while in transit.
LF Company is the ground exercise force for Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) 2011 and is comprised primarily of Marines from 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division and 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion, 4th Marine Division.
Augmented with staff from III Marine Expeditionary Force, these citizen Marines are training with partner nations throughout the region in core military skills like combat marksmanship, military operations on urban terrain, martial arts, jungle warfare and first aid.
“It’s a requirement for all of these Marines to fire their weapon at least once a month,” said Capt. Rudy Cazares, the Landing Force Company commander. “Doing these ranges also helps prepare the Marines for the bilateral training.”
Cazares, former company commander for Headquarters Company, 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III MEF is one of the few active duty Marines in Landing Force Company.
“I’m very happy I volunteered for this opportunity,” Cazares said.
In addition to the Marines’ training, 12 Sailors from the USS Tortuga were familiarized with the M-240B machine gun and given an opportunity to fire it.
“It was like an adrenaline rush. That’s what I really liked about it,” said Seaman Destinee Ramirez, Operation Specialist, USS Tortuga. “The fact that we got to step into the shoes of infantry Marines was really cool, and it was great that they showed us how to use the guns before we shot. I was so excited when I started shooting and I was hitting the target right where I was supposed to.”
Familiarizing the Sailors with the weapon wasn’t solely to win the graces of Navy brethren; it also allowed Marines to rehearse instruction of this weapon before doing so with partner militaries.
“Most of the Sailors we trained had never shot a machine gun before so it was brand new to them,” said Cpl. Armando Castellanos, a machine gunner with Weapons Platoon who taught the sailors about the weapon system before they shot. “Teaching a group of people I have never met and who have never used the machine gun helped build my confidence so that when we train with the next nation I’m even more prepared.”
Marines and Sailors participating in CARAT are proceeding to train with Indonesian defense forces next.
“Learning how foreign nations operate is a cool experience,” Castellanos said. “It’s also cool knowing that I’m leaving a small part of me behind with the other militaries by teaching them how we operate.”
The Marines with the Landing Force volunteered for the opportunity to travel to the foreign nations and are defining today’s generation of America’s Expeditionary Force in Readiness.
Since 9/11, the Marine Corps Reserve has engaged continuously in combat operations as well as regional security cooperation activities in support of Combatant Commanders, according to General James Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, in a report to the House Armed Services Committee, March 1.
“Today’s Marine Corps Reserve is more highly trained, capable, and battle-tested than at any time since the Korean War,” said Amos.
CARAT is an annual series of bilateral exercises held between the U.S. and Southeast Asian nations with the goals of enhancing regional cooperation, promoting mutual trust and understanding, and increasing operational readiness.