MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
As the Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force Marines pave the way forward, live-fire training serves as a vital aspect of weaponry familiarization. Marines of Battery A, GCEITF, sent the first rounds down range during a live-fire artillery shoot with the M777A2 Lightweight Howitzer at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Oct. 28-30, 2014 .
“In artillery, the only real way to grasp what it is you’re doing is by being in the field and shooting live rounds,” said Sgt. James R. Nero, Gun 3 section chief, Battery A, GCEITF. “We can sit at the gun park and talk about it all day long, and read straight from the training manual, but the Marines are not going to grasp how hard the job is, and how demanding the job is until we are shooting in the field.”
During the live-fire shoot, cannoneers received various calls for fire scenarios, some requiring them to fire a certain number of rounds while others required precision shooting involving each gun in the battery. Both guns on the firing line were presented with a number of scenarios to better understand the conditions and possibilities that could result when conducting support maneuver tactics.
Although artillery’s usual purpose is to support infantry troops on the ground, Battery A Marines were not supporting infantry Marines during this live-fire field training.
“By us being out here and not having to support anyone else gives us the time we need to train these Marines,” said Nero. “It is a good thing because we have the time to properly train them and we aren’t rushing anything. We’re trying to make sure everybody knows their job and knows it well, and the new (artillery Marines) are well acquainted with the weapon systems.”
There are seven field artillery cannoneer positions and one section chief. Nero’s job as the section chief is to stand back and observe everything that is happening and what everyone is doing. Nero ensured every cannoneer position was running smoothly, and accurate information was provided to the section team. The section chief oversees all cannoneer positions.
Cpl. Myha D. Shipp, Battery A cannoneer, GCEITF, performed the duties of cannoneer one. Her job is to open the loading tray for a round to be loaded into the howitzer. When given the command, she pulls the lanyard, which fires the cannon.
“With being cannoneer number one, it gives you a better opportunity to be up close and personal with the weapon, and you have a better angle to see what the other cannoneers are doing,” Shipp said. “My job is important because I oversee if the round is being loaded onto the loading tray properly before dropping the round.”
During a fire mission, cannoneers keep accurate and timely artillery fire on target, and if they miss the target, they make quick adjustments. The fire missions are quick and the Marines move at a rapid pace, but once they end the mission, they have time to relax and learn about each other, finding common interests, which help bring them together.
“Getting to know each other’s likes and dislikes, I think helps when it comes to performance and actually doing the job because you know the person next to you that you’re working with,” said Shipp. “If I am working with someone I know, I know that person will have my back as opposed to a stranger who knows nothing about me.”