Looking back on lessons learned in previous deployments, the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit Command Element realized they improve combat capabilities by stepping up their pre-deployment training.

The training section of the 24th MEU was tasked with the responsibility of readying Marines whose primary occupational field is anything other than infantry.

During the last deployment, in addition to fulfilling their normal job requirements, the Marines were needed to stand guard for the base. This required a familiarization with weapons other than their M-16A2 service rifles.

“The last time we deployed many of (the Marines) were using the weapons systems for the very first time while they were in country,” said Cpl. Richard B. McCluskey, a McLain, Miss., native and training non-commissioned officer for the 24th MEU. “We ended up having machine gun classes in Iraq, and that is not the place to do that.”

Seeing this gap in their readiness, the unit contacted the Regimental Training Command to schedule remedial training with the MK-19, .50 Cal and M240G Medium Machine Gun.

Sgt. David J. Spinelli a Glen Allen, Ill., native and a machine gun instructor with the RTC gave classes to the Command Element Marines.

“I don’t like anything more than training Marines on the weapons systems,” said Spinelli. “Its important to keep Marines up on this kind of training.”

Spinelli, with a combat deployment under his belt, has a sense of necessity of having witnessed first hand what lack of knowledge with the weapons could result in.

“We’ve gone out on missions to reinforce Marines where the weapons were jammed because the Marines didn’t understand all the aspects of the weapons,” he said. “It’s a horrible feeling when you come up on an ambush and see someone who has resorted to firing a pistol beyond its effective range out of desperation.”

On Dec. 20, the third in an ongoing cycle of classes was given at the 24th MEU headquarters.

“I think the classes are needed to prepare those of us, like myself who are younger Marines and haven’t deployed yet,” said Lance Cpl. William R. Gillespie, an administrative clerk from St. Peters, Mo. “It helps to get hands on with the weapons and hear from other peoples experiences.”

The first three classes were refresher training to get to know the mechanics and procedures. The next wave of classes will be conducted at firing ranges to teach first hand the weapons capabilities and the common problems plaguing the inexperienced machine gunners.

“At least every two weeks we’re are going to be training on the weapons to keep us ready and familiar with them,” said McCluskey.