Anti-Armor Platoon "Enters the Dragon" at Camp Fuji

28 Jul 2000 | Sgt. Houston F. White. Jr.

The land of the rising sun provided the setting for Anti-armor Platoon, Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, to conduct valuable live-fire training here July 28.After carving out an adequate firing position in the thick, tall grass of the North Fuji Maneuver Area with entrenching tools, the infantrymen stood ready to send rounds downrange.Ironically, with the sacred place the mythical creature holds in Japanese lure, the Lejeune Leathernecks were receiving a rare opportunity to fire the weapon known as "the dragon".True to its namesake, the M-47 infrared, wire-guided missile, direct fire weapon used mainly in a fire support role to destroy tanks and other armored vehicle, is arguably the most challenging rocket system to operate."It's a difficult weapon system," said Cpl Jay Cooke, a Weapons Co. fire team leader from Summerville, S.C. "It's a little bit different from all the other missile systems. I always compare it to shooting a rifle because any wrong movement with your body can cause the missile to go wrong."Apparently, cooperation between each member of the two-man teams that fire the rocket launchers is also imperative for success with the weapon. "Without teamwork, it would be even more difficult to shoot the dragon," mentioned Evanston, Wyo., native Pfc. Jarrod E. Pucel, a gunner with Weapons Co. "It's not mounted like the TOW missile and without your A-gunner deploying the bipod legs, you would have to keep getting up out of your position to redeploy them to make sure they're perfectly positioned before you fire."For LCpl Tim J. Hicks of Gainesville, Fla., the experience was a memorable one."I fired my first missile today and it was a really good confidence builder for me," he proclaimed. "Before I squeezed the trigger I was really nervous, but we run gun drills all the time back at home, so to actually fire a real missile felt great. I hit the target, too." According to Weapons Co. 1st Sgt. Rudy Resto, the hard work his Marines put in at Camp Lejeune fully prepared them to "enter the dragon," so to speak."I think they did an outstanding job out here today," said the New York City native of his Marines nailing an impressive five direct hits out of six attempts at the range. "They could see that all the practice they put in paid off. Because they worked on the basics, they were able to apply them and become better at engaging their targets, which is good since they only get to fire live dragon missiles once a year," he added.First Bn., 6th Marines is currently deployed to the Far East as a part of the six-month Unit Deployment Program.