News: 1/5 mortarmen aim for for proficiency and cohesion
Story by Lance Cpl. Benjamin Crilly
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Marines with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, fired mortars on Range MP-2 during an 81 mm mortar shoot, Dec. 10.
The Marines of the 81 mm Mortar Platoon experimented with new mortar teams and trained their 60 mm company mortar section counterparts before the battalion deploys to Afghanistan next year.
The 81 mm Platoon will be tasked on deployment with operating the 120 mm mortars, a weapons system recently acquired by the Marine Corps. This makes it imperative that the Marines of the 60 mm sections become proficient on the 81 mm mortars before using them forwarded deployed. The Marines will perform dry-fire, gun drills, but like the rifle range, it is important to actually drop live rounds and practice working together in teams, as they will in combat.
“This shoot allows us to know our weapon inside and out. We could do notional firing and practice our guns all day,” said Pfc. Joseph A. Callas, a mortarman with the 81 mm Platoon. “Until we get to shoot rounds out of it, we are not going to know how the gun will feel in a combat situation.”
Like many companies, Weapons Company has felt the affect of their seasoned veterans transferring to other units or getting out of the Corps. New mortarmen straight out of the school of infantry have recently joined the battalion to fill that void, said Cpl. Brian J. Burke, a squad leader for the 81 mm Platoon.
About 80 percent of the Marines in our platoon have yet to deploy, and about 60 percent of those are brand new with an average time of about three months in the operating forces, said Burke.
“They don’t have much experience and have a lot to learn,” said Burke, from Vancouver, Wash. “They have to learn how to work as a team. Anyone can learn to shoot a mortar, but to work as a team, that takes time to effect.”
The Marines dropped more than 400 mortar rounds as part of the three-day shoot and were able to cross train their counterparts while practicing their firing skills.
“The quicker we get them out here and to these mortar shoots, the quicker they learn and the cohesion builds.” said 1st Lt. Patrick B. Oshea, the 81 mm Mortar Platoon commander. “It’s very important to get everyone you are going to deploy with out here because the unit gains its strength out here in the field.”
The mortar teams weren’t the only ones practicing their skills in the field that day. The battalion’s forward observers for each company were perched high on a nearby hill, calling the shots and directing the gun teams throughout the training. As with any indirect-fire weapons systems, the observers will locate targets for the mortarmen in country and serve as their eyes on the battlefield.
The 1/5 mortarmen knew they were out there launching the way they may be called to do on their upcoming deployment and laid the foundation that will enable them to successfully deploy to support the battalion in Afghanistan.
“The Marines who we are relieving are using mortars pretty heavily. This mortar shoot allowed us to practice the skills that are vital in the current fight,” said Oshea, from Oakdale, N.Y.