News: Capitol Hill gets a thrill at Marine Day
Story by Lance Cpl. Emmanuel Ramos
QUANTICO, Va. - Marine Corps Base Quantico hosted a demonstration for U.S. representatives, congressional staff and special guests on Camp Barrett on Friday.
“This isn’t just a weapons demonstration,” said Maj. Robert Antolino, event coordinator and Instructor Battalion Operations officer in charge. “We are trying to showcase the professionalism and precision that Marines bring not only to the battlefield but off as well. We do a lot of things other services do, but we do it better and with a smaller budget.”
The more than 440 congressional staffers were bused or flown in on V-22 Ospreys, and were assigned to one of 40 sticks, which were lead by Marines, who answered any questions through a round-robin of stations.
“What a ride in,” said Tiffany Williams, a congressional staffer, with an ear-to-ear smile on her face. “I’d never flown in a helicopter before. It was a real rush.”
“That first demonstration was unbelievable,” said Jason Mills, a congressional staffer. “Seeing and feeling the mortars go off was just insane.”
Instructors from the Martial Arts Center of Excellence at Quantico put on a special demonstration of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program for spectators to enjoy while they waited for their turn to ride in an Amphibious Assault Vehicle.
“They seemed to enjoy everything they saw,” said Lance Cpl. Yashira Ramos-Morales, leader for stick 26. “They never stopped smiling and were really active with every demonstration.”
After a few hours of hands-on interaction, the congressional staffers were treated to MREs [meals ready-to-eat], which resulted in mixed reviews by the staffers.
“The beef stew was great,” said Lauren Hammond, a congressional staffer. “I didn’t know what to expect. I was quite surprised and satisfied.”
“The vegetarian pasta was different,” Williams said. “It just tasted like cold Chef Boyardee.”
Firing weapons turned out to be everyone’s favorite activity. Before they could test fire the weapons, congressional staffers first had to put on helmets and flac jackets with small arms protective insert plates and ear protection, the same protective equipment Marines wear in combat.
“I don’t know how Marines wear this all day; it’s really heavy,” Hammond said. “It really makes you appreciate what they go through.”
Once on the firing line, the congressional staffers test fired MK19, M240B medium machine gun, M2 machine gun and the M203 grenade launcher.
“The MK19 was my favorite,” Mills said. “You can feel the power and the destruction it causes. I’d hate to be on the other side of that thing.”
It was more than fun and games for the congressional staffers, though.
“I’m taking it all in,” said Alvin Valenzuela, a congressional staffer. “The big issue right now is budget. After seeing all of this, it’s better to invest in a lot of these programs and initiatives, like the green initiatives, right now because it’s more cost effective down the road. The technology is only going to get better if we fund it now.”
With Marine Day coming to a close, all of the congressional staffers left with empty shell casings as souvenirs to remember the lessons learned and the experiences gained of the Marine Corps capabilities and what they bring to the ever-changing battlefield.