KANGAROO FLATS, DARWIN, Australia --
Marines and Sailors of Company F., Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted live-fire training with machine guns, rockets and snipers here during the exercise Raider Dawn.
As part of the training, the U.S Marines conducted day and night live-fire exercises with M240B machine guns, shoulder-launched multipurpose assault weapons and sniper rifles, all on the Australian ranges.
The training was designed to help the different elements of the company to practice together as a team, said 1st Lt. Steven Christopher, weapons platoon commander, F. Company, BLT 2/7, 31st MEU.
“The purpose of this training is meeting the Marine Corps’ basic standards of employing the teams together,” said Christopher. “They have already worked individually, now what we are doing is employing them together.”
The Kangaroo Flats area has heavy vegetation, a condition that the Company F Marines had not had the chance to practice with before.
“We are used to open, clear fields of fire,” said Christopher. “Here, the machine guns rounds were chopping down small trees as they engaged their targets. This presented a unique challenge to the Marines and good training.”
Kangaroo Flats also offered the Marines a chance to train with both inert and high-explosive rockets. When they get a chance to fire both inert rounds and live rounds in the same day, it increases the quality of training, said Christopher.
The assault Marines fired their SMAW rockets first, and then the machine guns opened up on their targets.
“It was a very good range - much different shooting in a closed-in area with all the trees,” said Lance Cpl. Jacob Hopson, of Missoula, Mont., a machine gunner with Co. F, BLT 2/7, 31st MEU. “It was also good because we had to take advantage of our night optics, using our lasers to designate targets for the gunners. This helps us because we were put in situations where the line was spread out and so we had to learn to communicate quickly and pay close attention.”
The Marines continued shooting until well after dark, and along with the low-light conditions, they also had to contend with a dense layer of dust kicked up from the impacts of their rounds in the target area. The leaders shouted commands over the din of the talking guns, coordinating their teams and synchronizing their actions.
“Letting the Marines learn about leadership in the field is important,” said Gunnery Sgt. Yancey Paschall, company gunnery sergeant, Co. F, BLT 2/7, 31st MEU. “These guys here will be the team leaders and squad leaders for the next deployment. Confidence to take charge when they are in the combat zone comes from putting rounds down-range here.”
As the evening’s training concluded, it was evident that their teamwork was successful.
“These machine gunners are now fully capable and ready to employ their weapon system in combat,” said Sgt. Edward Corona, platoon sergeant, Co. F, BLT 2/7, 31st MEU. “This has been great training out here. Australia is a new area, and training in different environments is important.”
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.