MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Dragoon Company shot up Combat Center Range 109 to accomplish more then the satisfaction of sending rounds downrange during a 25 mm Bushmaster chain gun shoot March 22.
The live-fire exercise was held to familiarize more than 70 light armored vehicle crewmen from Company D, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, with their roles and prepare fresh gunners for the challenges they will face on Range 500 during their gunnery qualifications, said 1st Lt. Blake J. Rice, the Dragoons’ executive officer.
The first two sections of the qualification were conducted in a simulator, so Marines could only learn so much from them, said Cpl. Michael A. Gaudio, the senior LAV crewman evaluator for the range and a Chicago native. Range 109 gave them the opportunity to come out and shoot with the actual weapons systems.
“The idea is to progress from Range 109, identifying and fixing the problems before going to Range 500,” said Rice, a Bethesda, Md., native.
Since a lot of gunners deployed last year with the company as drivers, they are not new gunners but are new to gunning, Rice said. This range allowed them to sharpen their skills.
For others this was a new skill test, because it was the first time they had fired the 25 mm chain gun aboard the LAV.
The more time spent shooting the guns, the better off the Marine is because it gives him a basis to reach back to when in combat situations, said Staff Sgt. Andrew R. Faye, a Dragoons’ platoon sergeant and a Washington, D.C., native. “I want Marines to develop confidence through this, because the more problems that are thrown at them the better they become.”
Range 109 not only developed the Dragoons’ confidence, it was also very valuable in developing cohesion among the crews, said Cpl. Daniel S. Blunk, a vehicle commander with first platoon. The crew members learned the strengths and weaknesses of their fellow Marines and became stronger as a crew, added the Peorice, Ill., native.
“Your crewmen are your team, and you have to make sure you all locked on with each other,” said Lance Cpl. Steven W. Simms, a crewman with Co. D, and Fairview Tenn., native. “So you know what to expect of the other Marines and figure out how they think and operate.”
Armed with the experience, knowledge and cohesion gained at Range 109, the Dragoons are scheduled to complete Range 500 in April and deploy to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom this fall.