Marines Work to Qualify Before Deployment

11 Mar 2011 | Cpl. Dwight A. Henderson

Marines with tank platoon, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted a M1A1 Abrams tank gunnery range exercise aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., March 11, 2011.

The range was part of their required, semi-annual tank gunnery qualifications.

“It’s a sort of quality control,” said 1st Lt. Ernest Pierce, the tank platoon commander and Duxbury, Mass., native. “This is a standard. You either are or are not qualified as a tank crew.”

The range was a vast grass plain with berms and automated targets in the form of enemy tanks and infantrymen.

The Marines fired the tank’s main gun, .50 caliber machine gun and M240G machine gun.  They fired each weapon from the berm and while moving.  Likewise, some targets were stationary while others moved.

To increase the difficulty, the Marines not only fired with full systems but also with degraded systems; shutting down certain aspects.

“The range is nice, we know when we hit our targets,” said Lance Cpl. Kevin M. Singer, a tank driver and Westampton, N.J., native, with the platoon. “The movers make it more realistic than shooting at stationary targets.  This makes it as realistic as possible.”

The shock wave, from the main gun, rocked the windows of the observation tower where Marines scored and guided the tanks while each crew moved through the range quickly, eliminating targets with deadly accuracy.

Normally, a company would spend a week qualifying and a month total at the range. However, with the change in 22nd MEU’s deployment date, they had only days to complete the qualifications.

“This gives us time to work together as a crew,” said Singer. “It gives us a chance to get fluid as a crew.”

The Marines took full advantage of the time given, working extra hours to ensure they were all qualified in case they are needed during the MEU’s deployment.

“It’s a months training compressed into days,” said Lance Cpl. Robert C. Murray, a tank crewman and Carver, Mass., native, with the platoon. “So we’re working a lot of late nights.”

Once they finished their qualifications, the Marines will work tirelessly to ensure they, and their tanks, are ready for the deployment.

“We’re always training and ready to go,” said Singer.

The Marines and sailors of the 22nd MEU are currently deployed with Amphibious Squadron 6 aboard the USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and will continue to train and test the MEU’s ability to operate as a cohesive and effective Marine Air Ground Task Force.

The 22nd MEU is a multi-mission capable force comprised of Aviation Combat Element, Marine Tilt Rotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; and its Command Element.

22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit