In support of the Global War on Terrorism, Marines from all job fields are finding themselves on the front lines of the fight, performing both their military profession and also acting as basic riflemen.
“In country who is running convoys?” asked Gunnery Sgt. James A. Miller, Infantry Training Battalion weapons chief instructor. “It is to the point where someone has to man the (M2 50 Caliber Machine Gun); it’s not going to be the (infantryman).”
To better prepare Marines for their increasing role in combat, the College of Continuing Education Training and Education Command, Quantico, Va., and ITB have teamed up to develop a web-based training aid aimed at helping troops stay proficient on various weapon systems.
“The objective of this (course) is to develop an online solution to ensure that all Marines have a basic knowledge of heavy machine guns, specifically the M2HB .50 caliber and MK19 40mm machine guns,” said Rob Beck, senior instructional systems supervisor.
By referencing the course, Marines from any unit have a reliable subject matter expert on all matters of the weapons at their beck and call, he added.
“Marines that need this training can obtain the basic knowledge (nomenclature, operation, etc.) on their own, so when the subject matter expert is on deck, instead of taking up valuable time covering the basics, he can teach the more complex subjects and share his particular knowledge and experience,” said Maj. Mark R. Reid, Courseware Development Section, project officer.
Regarding the specific goals of the course, Beck added, “Marines taking this course will lean the basic fundamentals to operate and maintain the M2HB .50 caliber and MK19 Mod3 40mm grenade machine guns, as well as the basic fundamentals of machine gunnery.”
As a supplement to subject matter experts and other hands-on training, the course is scheduled to be available on MarineNet this month, he said.
Reid cautioned that while the course contains the information necessary to operate the weapons systems, the Marines taking the classes need to be involved in the learning process.
“This (course) is just another tool for the small unit leader to prepare his/her Marines for combat. As such, you can’t just tell your squad to take the course and expect them to be competent machine gunners without guidance and supervision and follow on practical application,” he explained.
Reid outlined the goal of the course, saying, “A small unit leader can take his/her Marines straight to the armory, conduct a brief review to check knowledge retention and then get right into practical application, ISMT ( Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainer) or live-fire training.”
Just as Reid and Beck recommend bringing in knowledge experts to assist in the training, they brought in weapons experts from SOI to help make sure the class is taught the right way.
“You could see that Gunnery Sgt. Miller and his team consider this a very important subject. The whole SOI team played a key role in the quality of this course and the speed with which it”s been completed,” Reid explained.
The course creators headed back to SOI to let students get hands-on with the weapon systems after completing the newly designed course. Allowing Marines with no prior experience with heavy machine guns to learn and apply their knowledge on the weapons gave Reid and his team a chance to see their product in action.
“I think it validated out goals for this course in that the Marines had a solid understanding of the basics of these two weapons systems. It was also encouraging to see that we had some skeptics when they began taking the course who became converts when they got on the guns and could actually identify parts and perform disassembly/assembly,” he said.
Miller agreed with the course creators on the success of the course with SOI students, “We could talk to them and they know the lingo. They could tell you what it can do, take it apart and put it into the fight.”
In fact, the course worked so well that the Training and Educational Command has included the heavy machine gun training as part of the required pre-deployment training for many units including many Air Combat Element (ACE) and the Marine Logistics Group (MLG) units, said Reid.
By including units made up of non-infantry Marines in the required courses, TECOM and the Marine Corps acknowledge that while every Marine has a specific job to fill in the Global War on Terrorism, when the time comes – every Marine is a rifleman.