News: Navy, Air Force takes aim with the Army
Story by Staff Sgt. Dave Overson
JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. - With the smell of gunpowder rising through the air and sweat trickling down the anxious faces of men and women attempting to qualify with their individual weapons, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst provides the venue for mobilizing units and individual augmentees to obtain their last-minute marksmanship training prior to a deployment to Afghanistan.
The Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force rely on First Army for weapons marksmanship training at JB MDL regularly. Uniquely, each branch of service learns and works well with each other in an attempt to improve their readiness. For a few of the service members, this was their first time firing an M16 A2, or M4 rifle. For others, it was the first time in many years.
Airman 1st Class Joseph A. Becker, an administrative personnel specialist, with the 633rd Force Support Squadron, from Joint Base Langley – Eustis, Va., spent several hours firing his M4 carbine, July 12. Becker is preparing for an upcoming six-month deployment to Afghanistan.
“I love working with other branches of the military,” said Becker. “We learn from one another, it’s nice seeing the different aspects we each bring to the table.”
In addition, Becker feels being able to see the true 300-meter targets opposed to paper targets will benefit him once he is deployed. Becker, who hails from Connersville, Ind., husband to Nikita and father to 1-year-old daughter Keira, is confident his marksmanship skills are much better after spending time on the weapons range.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Derek D. Detherow, 1st Battalion, 314th Infantry Regiment, 174th Infantry Training Brigade is the non-commissioned officer in charge of the firing range, where he enjoys instructing other branches of service.
“I learn a lot from the other branches,” said Detherow, “some of these guys served on submarines, so there’s always a great story to hear from them. They’re always appreciative of what they learn here. They always thank us when the training day ends.”
Detherow added that it makes the task at hand challenging with different branches, where some service members have never fired an M4 or M16 rifle. Nevertheless, he provides as much training as needed to ensure they are comfortable and qualified with their weapon before they leave the range, he said.
Coincidentally, Detherow is scheduled to deploy soon to Afghanistan. Within the following weeks., he’ll need to go through similar training he is currently providing to others.
From one end of the spectrum to the other, Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Kathleen J. Cooper-Collins has never fired an M16 A2 riffle in her life. This was her first time, and very enjoyable, she said. Cooper is an individual augmentee deploying to Afghanistan soon, she’s been learning and enjoying the Army way of doing things.
“I’m eager to deploy,” said Cooper, a cryptologic technician. “Anything I can do to help save lives will be very rewarding to me.”
Joint training at JB MDL is both efficient and beneficial to all parties involved. Some branches of the service specialize in certain skill sets, like the Army specializes in marksmanship, while other branches, like the Navy specialize in maritime warfare.
The culmination of all the branches working together is what sets JB MDL apart from your average mobilization platform. “One team, one fight,” is a common theme flourishing here in the Garden State.
“In my 10 years of Navy life, I’ve never had the opportunity to train with the Army, it’s very exciting,” Cooper said. “I feel more positive going over there knowing they’re looking out for us. It’s uplifting to know they have our best interest at heart, and that we’re all working as one team; Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and the Army with one goal.”