ROBERTSON BARRACKS, DARWIN, Australia --
Marines and Sailors of Company F., Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted a bilateral live-fire training event here with their Australian counterparts during the exercise Raider Dawn.
As part of the training, the U.S Marines practiced a Australian rifle qualification course, and the Australian soldiers practiced a Marine Corps movement and shooting drill.
“The company is out here for exercise Raider Dawn, which has been set up by the 1st Brigade of the Australian Defence Force. The purpose is to increase the bilateral training with the Australian forces,” said U.S. Marine Capt. John Dalby, Company commander, BLT 2/7, 31st MEU. “You look to the left and right in combat in Afghanstan and you see Australian soldiers, so sharing knowledge, sharing weapons systems, sharing tactics, techniques and procedures, that’s what we do best, and that what we are here to do.”
The U.S. Marines attempted to qualify on the Australian Live-Fire Six recruit training qualification course of fire. The course involves a series of rapid-fire drills at different distances on a 400-meter course. The test is the final one in a series of qualifications necessary for recruits to graduate entry-level training, said Australian Army Capt. Bryce Harding, transport officer, 1 Combat Support Battalion.
“This is a great opportunity for the Australian soldiers to mix with the U.S. Marines and see how their equipment works and trade a bit of experience,” said Harding. “This has been an excellent opportunity, and we’ve had a steady stream of guys coming out to train with the Marines, and it will be hard to get them out of here.”
The Australian Army course of fire has several differences from the standard U.S. Marine Corps rifle range course.
“One of the major differences is that this course is in meters, which is very beneficial to us because our weapons sighting measurements are also in meters,” said U.S. Marine Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Jones, battalion gunner, BLT 2/7, 31st MEU. “Our ranges stateside are in yards, so this is good to be able to shoot on a meter range and get immediate feedback on the electronic system.”
The Australian range also has a high-tech system which provides immediate feedback and allows the shooter to maintain greater accuracy, said Jones. It incorporates computer-aided feedback to instantly give the shooter information on the placement of the shots.
“The electronic display really helped. You can see right away where you need to correct, left or right, instead of having to physically inspect your target,” said U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Sean Hoener, of Pratt, Kansas, who is a team leader with Company F., BLT 2/7, 31st MEU. “You have faster learning, it saves a lot of time and gives you a chance to get your Marines better training. You can shoot your round, take a look at the screen, and get right back to the shots instead of having to pick up and move around like we do on our ranges.”
On the Australian course, the shooter fires out of a two-man fighting hole wearing their protective equipment, simulating what they would be doing in combat.
“It gets away from the known-distance course we normally shoot,” said Jones. “This increases combat shooting proficiency.”
The Australian Army soldiers also learned how to shoot Marine Corps weapons systems during the training.
“I’ve never shot this weapons system before, but I enjoyed it,” said Australian Army Pvt. Sam Stout, truck driver, 1st Brigade, who shot the U.S. Marine M-16A4 rifle. “The sighting device is very different than ours, so shooting something with a different setup was excellent training. I think that the inter-service communication and training helps both our countries. Thanks to the Marines for coming out and doing this shoot with us.”
“It is really different, but a good weapons system. The sights are very different, using the chevron as compared to the cross-hairs, so I’m not sure what I like better yet,” said Australian Army Pvt. Shannon Doolan, a supply specialist with 1st Brigade. “The Marines seem like a nice bunch of blokes, very helpful. They taught me how to use their weapons and it helps getting to know how each other’s systems works.”
One of the benefits of using the Australian ranges are that they feature automated pop-up and randomly-moving targets, both of which the U.S. Marine Corps standard ranges do not incorporate, said Jones.
“Snap targets are targets that rise up for two seconds, then drop down. The shooter gets an exact window to hit the target and it is all automated,” said Sgt. Jacob Hawken, from Elgin, Texas, the platoon sergeant for the BLT 2/7 personal security detachment. “Then the moving targets go a lot faster than what we are used to. They also go left or right randomly. Their speed and direction vary randomly, so the shooter cannot anticipate what they will encounter.”
Dalby said that this exercise increases interoperability and mutually benefits the U.S. and Australian armed services by giving them an opportunity to learn from each other.
“This is essential training, a real force multiplier,” said Dalby. “We have been serving together in Afghanistan, and we look forward to the opportunity to continue to serve beside our Australian counterparts. There have been some really neat skill sets that we have been able to enhance here with the help of the Australian ranges. And there are some skill sets that we have been able to bring to the table that the Australians were able to learn from as well.”
The 31st MEU provides a forward-deployed, flexible sea-based force capable of conducting amphibious operations, crisis response and limited contingency operations in the Asia-Pacific area.
The 31st MEU is the only continually forward-deployed MEU, and remains the United States force-in-readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.