News: Machine gunners let loose at Battle Skills Training School
Story by Lance Cpl. Paul Peterson
CAMP LEJUENE, N.C. - The convoy snaked its way around a bend in the road just before a barrage of machine-gun fire tore through the long line of simulated vehicles and sent pillars of smoke into the computer-generated sky.
Teams of Marines with 2nd Law Enforcement Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force huddled in the dark of the Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainer as they raked the column with digital grenades and bullets at the Battle Skills Training School here, Nov. 26.
The loud rat-a-tat-tat produced by the guns was harmless, but the ISMT course fulfilled a very real need for the servicemembers.
“If you are deploying like us, you are going to be put on these weapon systems in country,” said Lance Cpl. Alex W. Baker, one of the battalion’s military policemen who took part in the training. “It all comes down to communication – knowing if you are taking the left side or the right side and knowing where your other Marines are going to be applying fire so you can effectively take down the enemy.”
Compressed air jolted the shooters as they squeezed the triggers on the simulator’s various weapons: the Mark 19 grenade launcher, .50-caliber machine gun, M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon and M-240 machine gun.
The versatile simulator allows Marines to train for a vast array of scenarios and environments ranging from jungles and deserts to mountains and cities.
"It is only limited by my imagination,” said Cpl. Samuel L. Ridenhour, an ISMT instructor at BSTS with 2nd Marine Logistics Group. “I have a lot of control over it. I can jam their weapons. I can cause misfeeds and misfires.”
Ridenhour ran the Marines through several simulations as their leaders organized the gunners and managed their fields of fire.
“It gives the squad leaders a chance to better know their guys’ strengths and weaknesses, and it gives them a chance to get out there and lead in a simulated combat environment,” said Ridenhour. “The biggest thing to remember is know your limitations and also know the weapon’s limitations.”
The Marines practiced reloading and battling malfunctions during a firefight. They shot the machine guns in alternating bursts to provide a consistent hail of fire even as their partners reloaded.
“This would be one of the few times when they actually get to integrate all the different guns,” said Ridenhour. “Your combined arms defense [scenario] is the best one because it requires the most tactics as far as knowing how to integrate heavy and medium guns.”
The guns filled the room with noise and forced the Marines to shout and use hand signals for communication, which was one of the main challenges for the course.
Gunners selected their targets, opened fire on a set command from their leadership and shifted their weapons to engage new threats.
“You get to know what your fellow Marines are going to do in that situation,” said Baker, who tested his skills on two of the weapon systems. “You don’t all want to be focused on one target when there are multiple threats. You want to spread out your fire to try and get it done as quickly and effectively as possible.”
The blaze of fire decimated the projected vehicles in a matter of minutes, and Ridenhour quickly launched additional scenarios to test the troops.
With the last shots finally expended, the ISMT screen turned black, the lights came on and another team of Marines took positions behind the weapons.