FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Sgt. Ray Leonberger of the Instructor/Inspector Staff at Echo Company, 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion in Syracuse, N.Y., recently completed the Master Gunnery Course at Fort Benning, Ga. His new skills were put to the test at Fort Drum, N.Y.'s Light Armored Vehicle Range 37 when he was in charge of E Co. qualifications on the light armored vehicle.
"I am here to train the crews and make sure they are comfortable with the weapons systems and the vehicle," said Leonberger. "Confidence is my goal. They must qualify on the 25mm Bush Master Chain Gun and the 7.62mm Coaxial Machine Gun."
The 24 year-old devil dog from St. Louis, has been in the Corps for six years and has either been behind the wheel, the guns or commanding an LAV since he graduated LAV school.
According to Leonberger qualifying his company is very important. "They have to be confident in their abilities on all the weapon systems and the vehicle," he said. "The Marines here don't get much time with the vehicles like active-duty Marines do, so we make the most out of each drill."
The I&I Staff split the time at Fort Drum. "We are doing what you call a 'Split Nine Drill'," said Leonberger.
A Split Nine is taking half the company to the range getting them qualified and then taking the other half at a later date. This gives the Master Gunner a smaller class so he can focus more on improving the individual Marine's skills.
E Co. hit the ground running and didn't stop until they completed their mission at Fort Drum, preparing to do their part in the war on terror.
"My Marines will be ready," said Leonberger. "If they're not ready that is a failure on me. It is in the Marine (non-commissioned officer)Creed. They impressed me (speaking of E Co.) with their ability to to adjust and I am very confident they will excel in everything we teach them."
Standing in the back ground watching and mentoring the young hard charger was Master Sgt. Charles Donaldson with his 13 years of being a Master Gunner.
"Patience is the key to a good Master Gunner," said Donaldson. "We are trained on the LAV at an Army base. The principles are the same but as Marines we so things a little different than the Army."
Donaldson was brought up to help E Co. from Fort Jackson, S.C.
Out of all the good that came out of this training Leonberger has one wish about the training. "I wish it could be more," he said. "This is a perishable skill. If you don't keep it up it goes away."
That is just one of Leonberger's missions not only to ensure E Co.'s skills don't perish but they also improve.