CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa, Japan --
Cracking through the air in rapid succession, the rounds exited the steaming barrel of the machine gun and smashed through their target hundreds of yards away. With a noticeable cloud of dust pluming behind, the plastic silhouette of a man retracted to the ground to signify a hit.
Marines and Sailors from Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted a live-fire range with crew-served weapons as part of their CLB Exercise here, May 20.
Crew-served weapons are weapon systems that require multiple Marines to operate. The M-240B, a 7.62mm machine gun, the larger of the two weapons used during the training, was mounted on top of a High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle, or Humvee. The M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon, which shoots 5.56mm rounds, was employed in the prone position next to the Humvees. Each weapon system requires a gunner and assistant gunner to operate efficiently.
“Crew-served weapons require an assistant gunner, who gives the shooter a second set of eyes and hands that can help spot targets, change hot barrels and reload the belts into the weapon,” said Cpl. Ryan D. Blythe, a field military police squad leader with CLB-31, 31st MEU, and a native of Tucson, Ariz. “This event is a great way for the Marines to learn how to use weapons that they normally don’t use on a daily basis.”
The daily tasks of CLB-31 Marines do not normally include shooting machine guns from beside or on top of a Humvee. For example, a portion of the Marines involved in the training were from the Landing Support platoon. Landing support ensures the safety and proper transportation of supplies from the shore to ship and back again.
“Any chance I get, I love putting rounds down range and getting the chance to train as the rifleman we all are,” said Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Holloway, a landing support specialist with CLB-31, 31st MEU, and a native of Independence, Miss. “Most of us have never shot on a range like this, so it was interesting to get that experience.”
The training was part of CLBEX, the 31st MEU’s logistics combat element pre-deployment training, refreshing skills and tactics prior to operating outside of garrison.
“This isn’t just another annual training event where you check the box and go back to work; this is realistic training that we need when deployed,” said Lance Cpl. Christopher J. Coggins, a landing support specialist with CLB-31, 31st MEU, and a native of Alabaster, Ala. “Having this training ensures we have the knowledge to operate a M-240B and a M-249 SAW beyond what we learned during Marine Combat Training.”
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.