USS BONHOMME RICHARD, At Sea --
In the dead of night, the calming song of the ocean is broken by the distinct crack of rifle fire. Paper snaps and wood splinters as dedicated marksmen use enhanced vision to identify and eliminate their targets.
Marines and Sailors of Company E., Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted close quarters, low-light combat marksmanship training from the flight deck here, July 5.
The company used a moonless night and night vision goggles to add a degree of difficulty to training designed to create habit.
“When they engage the targets, it is a simple movement where they quickly sight in and fire,” said 1st Lt. Timothy R. Greene, a platoon commander for Co. E, BLT 2/4, 31st MEU, and a native of Granger, Texas. “They do it over and over until it becomes muscle memory.”
The infantrymen fired M16A4 rifles and M4 carbines at a distance of 15 meters. Because the NVGs eliminate the use of the weapon’s targeting optic, the Marines and Sailors relied on rail-mounted laser sights.
Their targets were paper, man-sized silhouettes, similar to ones used at a rifle range on land. Unlike land ranges however, the vast Pacific Ocean replaced cement or dirt as the backstop for the rounds. The moving deck, rolling with the ocean’s waves, turned the shadowy silhouettes into moving targets.
“This training really benefited the Marines that have never been on ship and shot off a moving deck while looking through their NVGs,” said Sgt. Daniel P. Hurley, a machinegun section leader for Co. E, BLT 2/4, 31st MEU, and a native of Buffalo, N. Y. “Teaching versatility was our main concern out on that flight deck.”
More than 100 Marines of the company were able to test their night-time marksmanship on the flight deck, expending thousands of rounds of ammunition over a period of three hours. Training opportunities like this are not common for Marines, making the experience all the more appreciated.
“This was a truly unique experience for me,” said Lance Cpl. Jacob R. Adams, a machine gunner for Co. E, BLT 2/4, 31st MEU, and a native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “When you aim the rifle at the target, there is a lot of movement, so I really had to concentrate on where my laser was pointing when I fired.”
The training served to boost the readiness of the 31st MEU’s ground combat element, which must be prepared to face a wide range of contingencies while deployed. The 31st MEU is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness for the Asia Pacific region and the only continuously forward-deployed MEU.