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Master Sgt. Shawn Stevens, Marine Air Control Squadron 1 radar technician and native of Sequin, Wash., takes aim and fires from behind an oil drum and bench barricade at the enhanced marksmanship program range on the Barry M. Goldwater Range located southeast of the air station Nov. 17. Marines like Stevens were forced to negotiate the obstacle course, firing from behind objects at ranges from 15 to 50 yards, while carrying ammo cans full of rocks to simulate carrying ammunition on the battlefield.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Robert L. Botkin

MACS-1 prepares for battle

17 Nov 2005 | Lance Cpl. Robert L. Botkin

Marines from Marine Air Control Squadron 1 recently participated in the enhanced marksmanship program Nov. 14-19 at the EMP range on the Barry M. Goldwater Range.

The training took a more tactical approach to marksmanship training, focusing on teaching Marines how to deploy their weapons in combat, as well as putting them in the proper mindset should they see combat, said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Philip Ross, nuclear, biological and chemical threat officer for Marine Wing Support Group 37, based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.

“When you’re in combat, you revert to the most basic level of training you have,” said Ross, a native of Ottumwa, Iowa. “We try to get them to see and hear the same conditions they would in combat.”

This includes firing on uneven terrain while fatigued, as well as firing from behind cover and with less warning and sometimes in firing positions the Marines are not familiar with, said Cpl. Cassell Wiggins, MACS-1 NBC specialist and native of San Francisco. The Marines run an obstacle course while firing at less exact distances and have to cope with conditions they might encounter while deployed, such as an increased tendency for their weapon to dry out and jam.

Approximately 130 Marines from MACS-1 are receiving this training in preparation for deployment early next year as a security company to the Al Anbar province of Iraq, said Capt. Jason K. Tubbs, MACS-1 logistics officer and commanding officer of the security company.

“I actively sought out this training for the Marines,” said Tubbs, a native of Texarkana, Texas. “We want to instill in the Marines the professional warrior mindset.”

The training included both the M-16A2 service rifle and the M-9 9mm pistol, which many of the Marines were unfamiliar with, said Sgt. Tina M. Pickell, MACS-1 air defense controller and native of Seattle. But confidence and familiarity with the M-9 came quickly, as the EMP range requires the Marines to keep their weapon in condition one at all times and deal with scenarios where the Marines would have to fire and reload their weapons with only one hand in case their other hand was incapacitated.

This is done because these are situations the Marines face while deployed, and as such, they need to train the way they will be fighting, said Ross.

“You don’t train for football by going to ballet classes,” said Ross. “I’ve had (many) Marines come back from deployment and tell me that they used the one-handed firing technique.”

“We’re training like grunts as far as marksmanship goes,” said Sgt. Adam Stephany, MACS-1 tactical data systems repairman and native of Buffalo, N.Y. “It’s modified (military operations in urban terrain) training.”

Beyond mission accomplishment, Ross also hopes the skills the Marines learn on the EMP range help bring them home.

“If I can bring home one Marine who wouldn’t (have come back) because of this training, that’s worth twenty years in the Marine Corps,” said Ross. “That’s worth my entire career.”
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