Clock is ticking on Miami native

20 Dec 2006 | Lance Cpl. Joseph D. Day

For most people fifteen seconds ends in a blink of an eye, but for the Marines of Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment it is all the time they have to send rounds down range, protecting their fellow service members.

Pfc. Patrick Mathews, a gunner in the company, had his hands full while lining up the sights on an M-252 81mm Medium Weight, Extended Range Mortar, Dec. 18.

“The faster we get our gun up, the faster we can put lead down range to help out the other Marines that might be in trouble,” said the Miami native.  “The average time is 15 seconds, but they are always pushing us to get faster and faster.  Lives depend on it.”

The Marines spent most of their morning conducting drills.  They received deflection commands, which are the vertical and horizontal movements of the weapon, and had a timing drill to see who could impliment to the commands the fastest.

The Marines were out competing for their jobs and also honing their mortar skills.

“The fastest Marine is the gunner,” said Cpl. Amarinder Grewal, a squad leader with the company.  “We need the Marines who can do it the fastest.  They will be the ones who save Marines.”

The drills were mixed up between small and large diffraction, the coordinates or numbers given to the squad from the Fire Direction Control center which correspond with a grid location where rounds must impact.  A small diffraction moves the sight controls a small amount and takes anywhere from eight to 20 seconds.  A large diffraction drill makes more serious adjustments to the weapon, including moving the bipod to help the elevation.  This takes anywhere from 25 seconds to nearly a minute depending on the change needed.

“My best time is 10 seconds,” said Pfc. Jeremy Martin, a gunner with the company.  “The more we do it, the more pressure they put on us.  That pressure builds stress.  They make it stressful so we know we can handle doing this in the most stressful situations in Iraq.”

These two gunners are two months out of school and are already preparing themselves for deployment.

“Our deployment is coming up next year,” Mathews said.  “I am looking forward to getting it done.  This training just helps me know that I will be safe.  It builds my confidence in my skills, allowing me to do it as if it were second nature.”

These Marines know working the gun is more than a job.  What they do means life or death for their fellow service members on the ground.

“They probably will never see the enemy,” Grewal said.  “But they may neutralize hundreds.  Their job is to get the gun up and firing as fast as possible.  If they can’t do that then lives will be lost.  The Marines of this company are the best at what they do.  They will have those rounds down range.”