CAMP GEIGER, N.C. --
Expeditionary readiness is always a priority, whether in a battalion-size force or a four-man fire team. This philosophy spans all branches of the U.S. military, and occasionally one force may find it necessary to cross-train with another to achieve that goal of heightened preparedness.
This is what a Navy Sea, Air, Land unit from the Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek – Fort Story, Va., did when engaging in the Infantry Mortars Leader Course, part of the Advanced Infantry Training Battalion aboard Camp Geiger, N.C., June 1 through 4.
“This course is designed to familiarize you with the functions of the mortar and its procedures of fire,” said Sgt. Brandon Lebrun, a combat instructor of the IMLC. “In the event they find the need for mortars while deployed, they will be able to operate them themselves.”
During these four days, the 12 SEALs learned how to prepare and fire a mortar, calculate fire direction, centering techniques, calling for fire – everything normally taught in a 45-day course was condensed into this short period to enhance the SEALs mission capabilities.
“After hearing all the stories about mortars being utilized overseas, the unit decided on going to Army and Marine Corps mortar training schools,” said a SEAL lieutenant junior grade going through the course. “By coming here and gathering as much knowledge as we can, it betters us toward our functionality when overseas.”
Created during World War II, the Navy found it necessary to have a separate unit to survey target landing beaches for any obstacles or defenses before landing troops arrived. In a joint effort with the U.S. Army, the Amphibious Scout and Raider School was created, training personnel in combat swimming and explosives training whom became the Naval Combat Demolition Unit. It wasn’t until 1961 when today’s SEAL units were formed.
However, SEALs do not have their own training areas to educate personnel in other-than-direct fire weapons such as the mortar systems, making the SEALs’ visit to the AITB a necessary one.
“The mortar system is most effective in an urban environment where direct fire cannot penetrate whatever shields the enemy,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Ballance, combat instructor with the IMLC. “When operating in small groups, mortars will be a definite equalizer if overwhelmed, and once these guys learn how to use mortars, they won’t have to call back and wait for support if the advantage is needed.”
The ultimate goal for any military operation is to complete the mission – whatever needs to be done to achieve that victory is left up to the units themselves. When collaborating with a sister service, not only are skills and techniques shared, but a stronger sense of rapport is forged.
“It only makes sense that if we work together overseas, it shouldn’t be so different a thing to train together back home,” said another SEAL member.