News: SPMAGTF ASEAN keeps tip of spear sharp en route to Hawaii
Story by Lance Cpl. Shaltiel Dominguez
PACIFIC OCEAN – Rounds from the M240B light machine gun ripped across the air as they perforated targets afloat. As waves rocked the ship, the Marine struggled to control the weapons system, but he managed to stay on his target. The weapon churned out smoke and spent casings before running dry. He then deftly cleared the weapon and stepped down, letting the next Marine command it.
Shooting with the M240B was just one of the many training exercises conducted by the Marines and sailors with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Association of South East Asian Nations, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, aboard amphibious transport dock ship USS Anchorage (LPD 23) March 24, 2014.
The Marines continuously train with different weapons systems, refreshing basic infantryman skills and practicing martial arts in addition to maintaining and operating equipment specific to their jobs while on their way to Hawaii to display the MAGTF’s humanitarian capabilities.
“We have roughly eight days from San Diego to Hawaii, so we knew the Marines had time to conduct basic Marine combat skills training in addition to performing maintenance on their vehicles and completing training requirements,” said Capt. David Michael Phillips, operations officer with SPMAGTF ASEAN.
The training provided valuable experience to the officers and staff with regard to conducting exercises with their Navy counterparts.
“In an expeditionary environment, we have to be ready in a moment’s notice,” said Phillips, a native of Gloucester, Va. “Doing this sustainment training on a regular basis, we learn how the ship operates, we learn the key billets from the Navy and we learn who to coordinate with, directly, in order to promptly accomplish the mission.”
The training exercises are being conducted by units from different parts of 1st Marine Logistics Group such as 1st Maintenance Battalion, 7th Engineer Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 15 and Combat Logistics Regiment 17.
“We trained approximately 60 Marines to operate the M240B light machine gun,” said Sgt. Eric T. Williams, chief instructor with the Combat Skills Training unit detachment, Logistics Combat Element, SPMAGTF ASEAN. “It’s good for every Marine to be proficient with different weapons systems.”
Firing this powerful weapon on unsteady ground forced shooters to focus on every marksmanship fundamental in order to hit their target.
“The ship wasn’t stable, rocking back and forth, and our shooters were from different units and different experience levels, so safety was our primary concern,” said Williams, a native of Mullins, S.C. “But it’s important to train with the weapons, no matter where you are, because you never know what might happen in an expeditionary environment.”
As the chief instructor for the CST detachment with SPMAGTF ASEAN, Williams and his team ensure Marines are proficient in using the M240B, the M-16 service rifle and the M-9 service pistol. They also ensure Marines practice land navigation and patrolling.
Elsewhere, aboard the ship, Marines and sailors continued to conduct preventative maintenance on aircraft and engineering equipment. One example is Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161, whose personnel are keeping the MV-22B Ospreys well maintained for the duration of the trip to Hawaii.
“The Marines of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161 are responsible for providing quality, mission-capable aircraft for the MAGTF,” said Staff Sgt. Brandon Griffith, staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge with VMM-161, SPMAGTF ASEAN. “Anytime these aircraft leave the deck with crew on board, lives are at stake. It’s important to ensure maintenance is done effectively so we can keep the crew safe and accomplish the mission.”
Prior to leaving for Hawaii, Osprey pilots with VMM-161 and AH-1W Super Cobra pilots with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Training Squadron 303 also conducted amphibious warfare certification training by doing landing and takeoff procedures on the USS Anchorage.
The training is important for pilots, said Griffith, as landing and maneuvering on an unstable platform such as a ship is more difficult to do than on land.
All this training is crucial for the Aviation Combat Element, as it provides the MAGTF’s assets with added reach and mobility.
“[The ACE] allows transportation of troops and cargo in harsh combat environments,” said Griffith, of Barberton, Ohio. “We can perform resupply missions and allow the Ground Combat Element to go on long-range raids, making it an important asset of force projection for the MAGTF.”
At the end of the day, whether they are refreshing basic combat skills or conducting maintenance and completing training requirements, the Marines of SPMAGTF ASEAN stay vigilant in making sure they are ready for the challenges they might face as one of America’s premiere forces in readiness.
Anchorage, with SPMAGTF ASEAN, is expected to arrive in Hawaii this week.