News: ‘Death from Below’ practices primary mission
Story by Lance Cpl. Cory D. Polom
Marines with 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion conducted a live-fire exercise with the PL-87 Stinger missile system at Onslow Beach April 16-17.
More than 70 Marines spent the two days firing 60 Stinger Missiles and 5,000 rounds of both 7.62 mm and .50-caliber machineguns at remote controlled drones provided by a contracted company.
“This is a multi-thousand dollar weapon system,” said Master Sgt. Terry A. Erb, the range safety officer for the exercise. “We LAAD gunners have one of the three most (exciting) jobs in the Marine Corps. We utilize a weapon that can make an enemy pilot have a terrible day.”
Erb said the reason behind the training is to ensure every Stinger missile gunner performs at the top level of his abilities.
“These Marines will continue to impress and put rounds on target to make sure the enemy can’t damage our locations,” said Staff Sgt. Samuel Cerritos, platoon sergeant with B Battery, 2nd LAAD Bn.
LAAD Marines took up positions on the beach and fired live Stingers at drones being flown about a mile and a half off the coast.
The Marines fired 20 missiles at night April 16 using the PAS-18 thermal sight. The PAS-18 uses thermal imagery to locate and identify aircraft in the sky. Two thermal settings, black-hot and white-hot, display the heat signatures of aircraft.
“We never know when an enemy may attack,” said Cpl. Nicholas J. Torcia, a gunner with the battalion. “The night shoot provides the shooter extra confidence with this weapon system.”
During the day shoot, the Marines conducted several drills, including stationary fire, quick reaction drills and a maneuver under fire drill.
During the maneuver under fire drill, shooters ran an altered form of the combat fitness test before sprinting 150 yards with a training missile to a firing position where they picked up a live missile and attempted to take an aircraft down despite their exhaustion, said Erb.
To top off their already-long list of challenges, the Marines faced one unexpected trial – to put their missiles on target under the watchful eye of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing commanding general. Maj. Gen. Glenn M. Walters visited the Marines during part of the training to see their performance and to discuss with them their importance to the Marine Corps. As long as there is a threat of enemy aircraft, said Walters, “... there will always be a need for LAAD Marines.”