KABUL, Afghanistan -- With the soaring peaks of the Hindu-Kush mountains as a backdrop, leathernecks from the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Anti-Terrorism) conducted a live fire training range recently, building familiarity of and confidence in the weapons.
"We wanted to further develop our skills with the M203 (40mm Grenade Launcher), in particular with accuracy," explained 2nd Lt. Kevin Walsh, Platoon Commander, 2nd Platoon, Company K, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. In addition, the Marines also put the M240G Medium Machine Gun through its paces.
Putting accurate fire on target required the Marines to determine the battle-sight-zero (BZO) for each weapon, a process that involves manipulating the weapons' sights in order to find the settings required to engage a target under ideal weather conditions.
For the Marines, the training was a welcome break from the daily mission of manning guard posts throughout the U.S. Embassy compound here, which they have done since arriving in country in early April.
"(The training) was a good experience, especially with the M240G," said 23-year-old Cpl. Rodolfo Ceron of Madisonville, Texas, a 2nd platoon team leader. Ceron added that it was his first time firing the weapon. "It was like an adrenaline rush. I was just holding down the trigger and letting rounds go down range."
Lance Cpl. James Mink, a team leader with 3rd platoon agreed that while the training was exhilarating, it also made him more comfortable with a weapon he wouldn't normally use.
"The training felt really good, because we have a lot of guys who've probably never fired the M240G before," explained the 21-year-old native of Wauchula, Fla. "With getting hands-on (training) with the M240G, for instance if a machine gunner goes down...we will be able to pick up the weapon and take care of business."
For Cpl. Alejandro Galvez, the extra practice time with the weapons boosted confidence in his abilities to use the sights and make whatever adjustments necessary to hit the target.
"It definitely helped my confidence and I did better than I expected," said the 20-year-old native of Mecca, Calif., adding that he was able to determine the BZO for his brand new M203 40MM Grenade Launcher during the shoot.
Additionally, Galvez said he was able to dispel doubts he had about the weapons' quadrant sight, which is used when precision is required out to the maximum effective ranges of 150 meters for a point target and 350 meters for an area target. "I had never shot with a quadrant sight before, and didn't think it would be very accurate, but it actually is."
As a result, Walsh feels the lessons learned during this evolution will pay off in the long run. "It's important for us to keep our skills sharp and to emphasize training at all times," he explained. "So that when situations like this come around, whether we're at the embassy or doing other missions, we know that our Marines have their professional skills developed at a very high level."