CJTF-HOA Force Protection Personnel Hone Weapon Assets

25 Jun 2003 | Cpl. Matthew J. Apprendi

Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa's force protection troops completed marksmanship training here June 22.

The exercise was hosted by Marine reservists from Company A, Command Logistics Element, Marine Central Command. The training was geared toward enhancing the skills required for effective security and force protection operations routinely executed by Co. A, the 87th  Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron and reserve military police Marines from 4th Force Service Support Group's, Belle Chasse, La.

The service members are training together to provide better security for CJTF-HOA's personnel and assets aboard Camp Lemonier, who are engaged in counter-terrorism missions designed to detect, deter, defeat transnational terrorists operating in the Horn of Africa region.

"I think it's paramount that all services work together," said Tech. Sgt. Kelly Mixson, flight sergeant, 87th ESFS. "The communication among the services grows by knowing each other's tactics, employment of weapons and rank structures. Inter-service training should be done more in garrison."

During the exercise, the troops engaged various targets with M16-A2 service rifles, M240G medium-machine guns, M9 pistols, M249 squad automatic weapons and Bennelli shotguns, as well as a period of instruction involving proper grenade throwing techniques and safety procedures.

Among other weapon systems, the task force also uses .50 caliber heavy-machine guns and tube launched optically tracked wire guided missile systems used by Co. A for defense and security operations.

"It's not a question if one of these systems is better than the other - they all serve a vital purpose in the defense of the camp," said Staff. Sgt. Wesley W. Wade, a staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the guard. "Marines need to be familiar with all of them."

Company A, the largest security force here, uses a wide variety of weapons to defend the camp and patrol approximately 100 acres outside of the camp's perimeter.

"The whole body (Co. A) has been here for five months, they've been doing an outstanding job of remaining professional and vigilant in the defense of the camp," added Wade, who was mobilized from his Grand Rapids, Mich., based unit. "If they're not on a security mission, they are training and preparing to perform to the highest level."

While the infantrymen guard the camp in its entirety, the Air Force is responsible for the task force's air assets and the reserve military police control the flow of civilian personnel working aboard the camp on a daily basis.  

"Our (87th ESFS) mission usually differs from the Marines," Mixson said, who deployed from Moody Air Force Base, Ga. "We train for Close Quarters Combat - up close and personal with the enemy. This is why our primary weapon is the M16 and we also utilize the shotgun out here."

Because each section defends a different aspect of the task force, each group has their own specific weapons tactics they use to complete their security mission. This enables the different security elements to learn a lot from each other.

"It (the training) gave each side an opportunity to learn from one another," Wade, a Kalamazoo, native, said. "An airman could show a Marine a different technique to effectively engage enemy targets. This could help the Marine perform his job even better. It's a group effort. We are all here to enhance our ability to defend the camp."  

One of the techniques airmen learned from Marines was the firing of the 240G medium-machine guns.

"The Air Force just recently added the 240G to the security force's arsenal," Mixson added. "It's been a rewarding experience for the airmen to shoot the Gulf (M240G medium-machine gun) with the Marines. They'll have a good foundation, when we return home."

Likewise, the MP's taught their methods of firing the shotgun and pistol to the infantrymen. 

The speed to effectively load ammo and the proper handling of a weapon during an engagement situation were other topics covered during the inter-service exercise.

Forces were required to engage three to five targets simultaneously with each weapon. This encourages their marksmanships skills, improves quickness, and builds decision-making skills in reacting to threats.

"Marines need trigger time," Wade said. "It's the best way to prepare them for combat."

Well-trained and ready at a moments notice, the security and force protection team here created and maintains a secure environment for CJTF-HOA personnel to plan and coordinate counter-terrorism operations across the region.

Headquarters Marine Corps