MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – “You’re riding along in a convoy conducting a resupply mission when you take contact from the enemy and your machine-gunner goes down,” said Sgt. Jeremy Marsden, the chief machine gun instructor serving with 1st Marine Division Schools. “The only other Marines in that vehicle are a driver, an admin clerk and yourself. What are you going to do?”
As the classroom grew silent Marsden, a 25-year-old native of Boise, Idaho, said “by the end of this course you will know what to do.”
The Marines of Marine Air Support Squadron 3 and Marine Air Control Squadron 1 trained in a weeklong non-infantry machine-gunners course at Division Schools the week of Jan. 7 to gain skills employing machine guns.
The purpose of the machine-gunner’s course is to provide both infantry and non-infantry Marines the proper tactics, techniques and procedures for operating, maintaining and assembling machine guns used in combat, Marsden said.
“Every Marine a rifleman, so we should know how to use the weapons rifleman used in combat,” said Lance Cpl. James Kendrick, an air support network operator serving with MASS-3. “Those guys, grunts (infantrymen), use more than just rifles, so we can’t stop at just knowing how to use a rifle.”
All Marines are trained in basic level infantry tactics during recruit training. They gain more experience with rifles as they complete Marine Combat Training and the School of Infantry.
The instructors at Division Schools help improve overall combat effectiveness by teaching Marine students, those who don’t typically use machine guns, the skills of a basic machine-gunner.
“Any Marine who can potentially deploy in a combat zone should have this training because at any moment a situation can change, and they may have to fire the M2 .50 caliber machine-gun or the Mk 19 grenade launcher,” Marsden said. “They wouldn’t be able to effectively suppress the enemy if they haven’t had any training with these weapons.”
The Marines of MASS-3 and MACS-1 had this concept in mind when they went through the training.
“I’ve heard stories all the time about how a Marine who was not an infantryman but rose to the occasion and picked up a weapon to return fire,” said Kendrick, a 23-year-old native of Bellevue, Texas.
“I wanted this training so I can be relied on – not just as a rifleman, but as a machine-gunner as well.”
The training was both mentally and physically demanding for the Marines. The instructors combined weapons assembly and disassembly training with physical fitness exercises to test how well the Marines could operate the weapon under stressful conditions.
“We take them on runs with the weapon systems and have them do various exercises to physically exhaust them,” Marsden said. “Then, we have them disassemble and assemble the weapons while fatigued – forcing them to think under pressure.”
After completing the week of training, the Marines were tested on the characteristics, functions and maintenance of the weapon systems. Once the final exam was completed the Marines fired the weapons at various targets during a live-fire range.
“This is great training, and we get to work with weapons we normally wouldn’t use,” Kendrick said. I can’t wait to be certified and able to say that I am a rifleman and a machine-gunner.”