News Icon

News: M249 Light Machine Gun: Endangered species for Marines in Afghanistan

Story by Sgt. James MercureSmall RSS IconSubscriptions Icon

M249 Light Machine Gun: Endangered species for Marines in Afghanistan Sgt. James Mercure

Cpl. Eric Bobst, an Infantry Automatic Rifleman with personal security detachment, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 7, fires his IAR at a close-quarters range at Forward Operating Base Sabit Qadam, Oct. 22. The IAR is replacing the M249 Light Machine Gun as the automatic weapon organic to the infantry squad.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SABIT QADAM, Afghanistan - As full integration of the Infantry Automatic Rifle into the Marine Corps’ arsenal becomes complete, the M249 Light Machine Gun, formerly the Squad Automatic Weapon, slowly fades into the history of the Corps.

The SAW has seen action since 1984 and has protected Marines since. Replaced by an automatic rifle of similar size and weight of the M16A4 service rifle already issued to rank and file Marines, the familiarity with the new weapon is almost instant.

“The IAR has fewer moving parts than the SAW does making it a lot more ‘grunt friendly,’” said Lance Cpl. Tyler Shaulis, an IAR gunner with 4th Platoon, Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 7. “It has a direct piston system, so there are fewer jams. It stays cleaner, longer with less carbon build up after it’s been fired. The muscle memory stays the same with it as it would an M16. If an IAR gunner goes down, any Marine could grab the weapon and lay down accurate suppressive fire without thinking twice.”

For the Marines at this austere forward operating base, the change has been a positive one, with only a few minor suggestions for the new rifle issued to them before they deployed during early October.

“It’s a huge improvement to have a more accurate weapon,” said Staff Sgt. Mathew Henderson, the platoon commander of Personal Security Detachment, 2nd Bn., 7th Marines, currently on his fourth combat deployment. “We want to broaden the application of its use. For instance, using an IAR in a sniper platoon instead of a SAW would be a huge advantage.”

To potentially lower costs, Marines with the battalion are looking at ways to implement the IAR in place of a more expensive weapon already in use.

“This weapon platform could be used as multipurpose weapon system in the infantry squad, i.e., using an IAR as an automatic rifle and as a designated marksman rifle,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Chris Jones, infantry weapons officer, 2nd Bn., 7th Marines. “In the current fight when there is a limited exposure and a fleeting target that blends in with the local populace, it is more important to have a more accurate rifle with a better optic. If you can get (positive identification) faster, you can kill the enemy rather than a weapon that provides audible suppression. Audible suppression being the bullets hitting everywhere but on target, and the enemy only hearing the sounds of gunfire.”

“In a time of fiscal restraints, one rifle potentially serving two purposes would be huge,” said Jones from Sullivan, Ind.

Although the SAW will be missed by some of the “saltier” Marines who have used it before, the IAR brings about a new breed of machine gunner and the squad he supports with it.

“We’re going back to what we had in WWII with the Browning Automatic Rifle,” Henderson said. “Since the 1980s, we gave the infantry squad the light machine gun, and now we’re having another shift in the Marine Corps to get back to what we were doing right the first time.”

Connected Media
ImagesM249 Light Machine...
Cpl. Eric Bobst, an Infantry Automatic Rifleman with...

Web Views

Podcast Hits

Public Domain Mark
This work, M249 Light Machine Gun: Endangered species for Marines in Afghanistan, by Sgt James Mercure, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.

Date Taken:11.12.2012

Date Posted:11.12.2012 01:47


More Like This

  • The United States Marine Corps explored many options to replace the currently employed M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, and found an upgrade with the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle.
  • U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Samuel Caffrey, a Hastings, Pa., native and an armament repairer with Company B, 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, trained Afghan National Army soldiers on how to disassemble and reassemble the M4 and M16 rifle, the M249 squad automatic weapon and the M240B machine gun at Camp Maiwand, Afghanistan, April 16.
  • The mission of the Marine Corps rifle squad is to locate, close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver, or repel the enemy assault by fire and close combat. By the end of 2013, the Corps will replace the M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon with the M-27 Infantry Automatic Rifle, enabling Marines to engage the enemy faster and more effectively.
  • There are nine squad automatic weapon gunners in a regular infantry platoon, each one capable of unleashing 850 rounds per minute with their standard M249 squad automatic weapon. All gunners in a regular infantry platoon combined can dish out 7,650 rounds per minute upon the enemy. Multiply 7,650 rounds per minute seven times and you have the capability of Machine Gun Platoon, Support Company, Anti-Terrorism Battalion, 4th Marine Division based out of Chicopee, Mass.


  • Army
  • Marines
  • Navy
  • Air Force
  • Coast Guard
  • National Guard




  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Youtube
  • Flickr