MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Each year, thousands of Marines, sailors, soldiers and foreign military personnel train throughout the Combat Center
’s ranges. Most training evolutions are conducted using live ammunition, which results in the need for thousands of rounds and explosives.
Thanks to the hard work of the Marines at the Center Magazine Area, the mission of tracking, issuing and storing the ammunition for all training units is met.
Lt. Col. Brent Norquist, the officer in charge of CMA, said a boost in the number of units going through Enhanced Mojave Viper predeployment training has nearly doubled his Marines’ workload.
“There has been a 142 percent work increase as reflected in annual tonnage of ammunition moved through our CMA from 2007 to 2009,” said Norquist, a Portland, Ore., native. “Due to the increased force level and tempo with EMV, the same organization is handling and moving nearly twice as much ammunition now as we did back in 2007.”
Norquist also said his Marines do not share some of the luxuries other Marines in Headquarters Battalion have.
“CMA is far from the comforts of mainside [Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center],” he said. “There’s no chow hall or Taco Bell out here.
“CMA Marines do most of their daily work outside of the magazines, which are not climate controlled, on the exposed hardstands preparing and moving ammunition. This means most of their time is spent in the sun, wind, rain and even snow,” he added.
Cpl. Benjamin Smith, a storage team leader with CMA, said his Marines are pushed hard every week.
“We [physically train] five days a week as a unit,” said Smith, a Greenville, S.C., native. “Then we get to work at eight and usually stay until around six every night.”
Norquist said scheduling issues and other mishaps significantly contribute to his Marines’ workload.
“Almost weekly we have at least one unit who fails to meet the required timelines for submission of routine ammunition requests or turn-ins,” he said. “Often, the ammo required is critical to a unit training opportunity, or the unit needing to turn in ammunition is leaving on their flights back to the East Coast the next morning at five. The CMA Marines get the job done, however, they are often required to work late into the night or on unscheduled weekends to accommodate these last minute requirements.”
Despite the workload and long hours, Smith said being a CMA Marine is something he takes pride in.
“Working here’s not bad,” Smith said. “We recently earned a [72-hour liberty period] for not having an alcohol-related incident for 120 days. So it’s nice to see good behavior and hard work pay off.”
Lance Cpl. Michael K. Marra, a CMA team member, agreed.
“You know the hours we work are at times long, but there’s a high level of motivation and camaraderie within our unit that keeps our spirits high,” said Marra, a native of Chicago. “CMA gives 100 percent around the clock, whether it’s with issuing ammunition or field day at the barracks.”
Norquist said he is also proud of his Marines, and appreciates the dedication and hard working characteristics his Marines possess.
“Bottom line, we ride the Marines at the CMA pretty hard and put them away wet too many times,” he said. “Despite this, they always safely and correctly get the mission done, and without their efforts, effective live-fire training aboard the Combat Center wouldn't be possible.”
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