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thedrifter
07-27-05, 08:02 AM
1/5’s guns fastest this side of Euphrates
2nd Marine Division
Story by Cpl. Tom Sloan

CAMP HURRICANE POINT, AR RAMADI, Iraq (July 27, 2005) -- A motivated team of Marines work exhaustively behind the scenes here to ensure infantrymen with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment are able to shoot straight.

The seven Headquarters and Service Company Marines – four armorers, two electronic optical ordnance maintenance technicians and one Marine Corps integrated management specialist clerk – are responsible for keeping all the infantry battalion’s Marines armed with fully operational weapons so they can complete their mission on the urban battlefield, according to ordnance chief Staff Sgt. Eduardo Chavez.

Whenever a Marine has a problem with his weapon or optical equipment, he takes it to the armory and has it fixed.

“We make it so every Marine in the battalion has a weapon that’s functional and ready for combat,” said the 30-year-old from Los Angeles.

Supporting approximately 1,000 Marines is no small feat, but Chavez and his fellow armorers handle the task well, he said.

“We’ve been at and above 98 percent mission readiness the whole deployment,” said Chavez.

First Battalion, Fifth Marines has been in the city conducting security and stabilization operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom for five months. The Marines were issued their weapons from the infantry battalion’s armory back at Camp San Mateo aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton before they deployed and now rely on the armory here for repairs and maintenance.

According to Lance Cpl. Adam J. Kircher, a 22-year-old armorer from Omaha, Neb., he and his fellow Marines are capable of repairing any weapon system. Whether it’s an M2.50 caliber machine gun mounted on a humvee or an M16-A4 service rifle, Kircher and his comrades can have it fixed and back in fight fast.

“We have a one to two hour turnover time,” said the 2002 Papillion High School graduate.

They recently repaired an M-16 with a bent barrel, said Chavez.

“It was bent about 30 degrees,” he said, “and we replaced the barrel on it.”

The weapon was repaired and put back in the fight by the Marines, who Chavez said “are hard workers. The armory is able to be so successful and productive in keeping the weapons maintained because of the Marines here.”

Lance Cpl. Darren J. Armentrout takes care of the optics. The 23-year-old electronic optical ordnance maintenance technician from Broken Arrow, Okla., maintains and repairs night vision goggles, thermal night sights and other optical equipment Marines use.

“There’s been countless times where Marines have brought me busted up NVGs and I’ve had to basically build them from scratch,” said the 1999 Broken Arrow High School graduate.

Armentrout explained that NVGs are routinely damaged when Marines are hit by improvised explosive blasts. At approximately $3,500 per set and the capabilities they provide, it’s paramount that they get repaired, he said.

“NVGs and other optics are vitally important,” he said. “They give Marines 24 hours of operation capability. The enemy doesn’t have anywhere near the night capabilities we do.”

In addition to maintaining 1st Battalion, 5th Marines weapons, the armory also provides their services to a large group of Iraqi Security Forces. The Marines ensure that approximately 600 ISF have fully functional AK-47s, said Chavez.

The armory is also a makeshift hold facility for seized enemy weapons until they’re destroyed.

Despite this busy schedule the Marines who work in the armory still leave the confines of the camp and assist in assaulting the enemy. Pfc. Jordan E. Balsat, an 18-year-old Marine Corps integrated management specialist clerk from St. Louis and his comrades recently went on a mission and detained three suspected insurgents.

“I’m always glad to get out and do my part in the effort,” said the 2004 Hazelwood High School graduate, who’s been selected to receive a meritorious promotion to the rank of lance corporal. “We work long hours here and are often awoken in the middle of the night to fix weapons, but going out on missions is really worthwhile.”

Ellie