ABOARD USS ESSEX, OKINAWA, Japan --
The smell of gunpowder and hot shell casings hitting the deck was the scene as Marines and Sailors with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Deep Reconnaissance Platoon (DRP) and Amphibious Reconnaissance Platoon (ARP) conducted a small arms deck shoot here, Feb. 2.
The at-sea live-fire exercise which took place aboard the flight deck of the forward deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) involved more than 30 reconnaissance Marines in preparation for their spring patrol with the 31st MEU and the Essex Expeditionary Strike Group.
“The deck shoot’s primary purpose is to allow the Marines and Sailors of the DRP and ARP to keep their precision shooting skills,” said Capt. Stanton Hawk, the DRP commander with the 31st MEU. “The Marines must shoot once a month, even when out at sea.”
After a short safety brief, members of the MEU’s DRP and ARP executed various firing drills using the M-4 Carbine and M1911 A1 .45 Caliber pistol. The servicemembers conducted the shoot by firing the M-4 rifle in shot pairs and then quickly transitioning to the 45. Cal. pistol. The drills included speed reloads and shooting on-the-go to enhance their tactical weapons handling skills.
For Cpl. Micah Blake, an assistant radio operator with the DRP, the drills helped increase his ability with shooting in varying conditions.
“While the shoot helped me brush up on my proficiency for a combat environment, it was unique to fire while shifting weight with the rocking of the ship,”
Along with the varying movement of the ship, the surface of the ship’s flight deck offered additional challenges compared to doing the same training ashore.
“The metal deck is much different than natural dirt and its different here on ship because some shooters are affected by the motion of the ship," said HM3 Blake Reynolds, a corpsman with the MEU’s ARP.
In addition to sustaining combat skills, the relationship between the Marines and the Sailors aboard the ship grew stronger by working together, explained Hawk.
“The Marine and Navy team really worked well together making this exercise a success,” added Hawk, a native of Daphne, Ala. “Another primary purpose for the exercise was to sustain the blue green workups.”
The 31st MEU and the Essex Expeditionary Strike Group are conducting Navy/Marine Corps integration exercises in preparation for their spring patrol throughout the Asia-Pacific region.