ABOARD USS MOUNT WHITNEY (LCC/JCC 20) -- Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa sailed from Norfolk, Va. recently to aid in the fight against global terrorism. CJTF-HOA security detachment is using their time aboard ship to hone their skills.
"Anyone can shoot a weapon, but today these Marines are learning the way of the gun," said Capt. Jaisun Hanson, CJTF-HOA security detachment officer-in-charge.
With bright sunshine and a cool breeze blowing across the USS Mount Whitney's weather deck, the Marines placed their "echo" silhouette targets strategically at the ship's stern. They spent a full day prior building the targets themselves out of wood donated by 2d Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, N.C.
The detachment Marines have completed the School of Infantry, and most of them have gone through enhanced marksmanship training programs. The training goal today was to teach them how to "gun fight" according to Staff Sgt. Gregory Hoover, CJTF-HOA security detachment platoon sergeant.
Carefully practicing the four safety rules and four rifle conditions, the detachment fired round after round with brand new M16-A4 service rifles and M-4s. Safety was further enhanced by kevlar helmets, MOLLE gear and flak jackets (with bullet-proof plates inserted) worn by the Marines. Throughout the day they learned basic, or ground level techniques such as reloading, remedial action and even shot placement on the human body.
"Repetition is the only way to improve your rifle skills, because it builds your muscle memory," said Lance Cpl. Danny Laberdee, security detachment. "The more we fire, the faster we get."
As the cruise advances, the training of the detachment Marines will become more complex to better hone their skills.
"Although we are at ground level right now and are building ourselves up in order to make ourselves better Marines and improve our marksmanship, we are always looking forward to more training," said Laberdee, native of Dallas, W.Va. "We are looking forward to the training getting tougher to make us smarter."
This evolution is only the beginning for the security detachment, but it could not have been conducted without the cooperation of the ship's crew.
"We are very happy to be working with this particular crew," said Hanson, Auburn Hills, Mich. native. "I know this is kind of odd, especially for a vessel that doesn't normally have Marines firing rounds from their stern, and they supported us 100 percent."