News: Mortar course reinforces Marine infantrymen’s combat readiness
Story by Lance Cpl. Joseph Scanlan
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - First Marine Division Schools taught a three-week long mortar course to sharpen and teach new skills to infantrymen serving with 1st Marine Division here, Sept. 20.
“On a company size and even a battalion size, the mortar is a huge asset,” said Staff Sgt. Wesley Beechum, the chief instructor of the mortars course offered at division schools. “As a platoon sergeant, I wanted to know that my mortar section was the best that they could be because I’m relying on them to cover me.”
Within the mortar course, there are three sections taught, which include a forward observer section, a fire direction center section and a gun line section.
To fire a mortar in a timely matter, all of the sections must work together in a team and pass information from one section to another, Beechum said.
A forward observer is the eye of the gun line that sends target locations and corrections after impacts to the FDC.
The Marines in the FO section learn how to call for fire, transmit that data and make adjustments, said Beechum, a 37-year-old-native of San Jose, Calif.
In the fire direction center, Marines learn how to take data they receive from the FO and transmit it into data for the gun line to use.
“The Marines in FDC learn what the plotting board is, how to set up the plotting board, how to utilize the plotting board, and how to compute data to the gun line,” said Staff Sgt. Jeffery Campani, a mortar instructor with division schools.
In the gun line section, Marines learn the basics of the new M224A1 mortar system and the M224 mortar system, do gun drills, have written exams, and engage targets.
Campani, a 32-year-old-native of Fargo, N.D., said the gun line section is usually taught to junior Marines so they can learn the mortar systems. Typically, younger Marines have only been taught the gun line portion during their initial training and haven’t learned it since.
Throughout the course, Marines in each section learn how to work together and rely on each other to get their missions accomplished.
“Without teamwork, you cant get anything done,” Beechum said. “You can run a mortar system with two Marines, but it makes it so much easier if you have the whole team working together. It makes it more efficient, causes less waste and it’s more timely.”
Division schools offer multiple courses yearly to all Marines, which include the non-infantry machine gunner course, pre-scout sniper course and urban leadership course.
Attending the course keeps Marines in a combat mindset while allowing them to learn and fine-tune new skills.
“Any time you get an opportunity to sharpen your skills and make yourself better, you’re going to be that much better while in combat,” Beechum said.