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11-03-05, 07:02 PM
Marines Behind The Machines
MCB Camp Pendleton
Story by Lance Cpl. Antonio Rosas

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (Nov. 3, 2005) -- Marines from several Camp Pendleton-based units honed their machine gun skills recently for their upcoming deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The course is designed to teach non-infantry Marines the basics of operating machine guns should they ever find themselves in the position of manning the heavy weapons.

“In combat, it’s not just the 0331’s (machine gunners) behind the weapons anymore,” said Sgt. William H. Knipper, 26, from Jefferson Township, N.J., chief machine gun instructor, 1st Marine Division Schools. “Marines can’t escape the chance to get behind one of these weapons in order to protect the unit.”

All of the Marines attending the course are scheduled to depart for Iraq in the coming months, and the training provided the complete operational capabilities of three separate machine guns: the M240G medium machine gun, the M2 .50 caliber machine gun, and the MK-19 40 mm machine gun.

The Marines demonstrated their understanding of each weapon system, breaking it down piece by piece as well as demonstrating procedures for correcting problems to the gun should it temporarily malfunction.

The instructors, all combat veterans, provided the students with up-to-date training based on after-action reports from the front lines.

One of the major differences in machine gun employment from previous OIF missions is the higher stress on accuracy and placing well-aimed shots, said Sgt. Raymond J. Plouhar, 29, from Lake Orion, Mich., a platoon sergeant with a personal security detachment, 1st Marine Division.

Of the roughly 40 Marines present for the course, all walked away with a well understanding of the guns as the instructors worked closely with the students in order that they become independent operators.

“I felt pretty good with the training, and by the time we got to fire the guns, I felt confident enough to handle them successfully,” said Lance Cpl. Rodolfo Ceja, 19, from Chicago, a warehouse clerk with Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

“All of my doubts about being able to handle the weapons were resolved with this course.”

All of the Marines enrolled in the course were able to fire up to 100 rounds from the three machine guns.

Simply taking the course is an excellent opportunity for non-infantry Marines to take because they rarely get the opportunity to handle these weapons, said Sgt. Michael J. McBride, primary instructor, non-infantry machine gun course at 1st Marine Division Schools.

The Marines will move to the next evolution of training with their respective units and participate in the upcoming Operation Mojave Viper, a combined arms exercise at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms.