September 22, 2015 – ANNISTON, Ala. —
The sharp crack of rapid fire fills the air, stirring up dust and smoke on the far-off hills of Pelham Range. A line of Marines focus their sights on the targets spread along the hills of the range as their gloves tighten around the grips of their machine guns. Their fingers pull the triggers and release bursts of bullets and smoke.
As the trigger pulls slow, the distant ringing of machine-gun fire and empty casings striking the ground tapers off, letting the smoke settle as the group prepares for their next round of fire. The Marines of Battery M, 3rd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, assembled at Pelham Range in Anniston, Alabama on Sept. 19, 2015, to refresh their knowledge and train on three different crew-served weapons. They started early, preparing for the trip and giving impromptu classes to ensure everyone gained the knowledge they needed.
“It started out we had every piece of gear we need, we loaded up and gave a hip pocket verbal class on the fundamentals and general data on the M249 SAW, the M240 and the M2 50-cal,”said Sgt. Donovan Walters, the ordinance maintenance chief of Battery M. “We then did practical application where they demonstrated proficiency and we loaded up and fired.”
As the Marines fired on the scattered targets, they focused on the fundamentals of each weapon system and took advantage of the time they were given to train. “As Reserve Marines we don’t get to be as familiar with it in a day in day out situation like the active duty Marines, so we have to be able to come in once a month to utilize our training,” said Cpl. David Osborne, assistant section chief of Battery M.
“We will make sure we are ready and prepared whenever we are called upon.” As an artillery battery, each of the Marines is tasked with ensuring they are proficient in not just one weapon system but multiple weapons systems. The Marines trained specifically on three different crew-served weapons to continue to hone their skills and stay prepared for anything. “A lot of people think of artillery as just shooting the howitzers, but there is a lot more to it. You have local security so you need to know how to setup those machine guns to employ battery defense,” said Gunnery Sgt. William Potting, Gunnery Sergeant for Battery M.
“You need to be able to protect yourself, so the Marines need to be up on their crew-served weapons capabilities.Though the Marines are not able to practice with these particular systems as much as their active duty counterparts, they stayed on target and proved they remain proficient and fully capable of using each of the weapons. The Marines did very well, it has been a little while since we did get out here and have shot the weapons but it is like riding a bike for these Marines,” said Potting.
“I was impressed with the way they employed the weapons. It’s like they never walked away from them.” The Marines of Mike Battery took full advantage of their time on Pelham Range they focused their sights on the mission and accomplishing it with ease. They will continue to remain locked on their mission and prepared to use any of their capabilities when they are called to the fight.
Written by Cpl. Sara Graham, Marine Corps Forces Reserves