Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. --
Safe guarding, distributing, collecting, maintaining and keeping 100 percent accountability for weapons in no easy task, but someone has to do it.
The close-knit unit of Marines at the Headquarters and Support Battalion armory carries a big workload by providing the battalion’s Marines and sailors the best services and weapons for use on the rifle range and various training courses. Additionally, they are responsible for keeping track of all the documentation for the weapons and gear they use regularly.
“We provide (the Marines) with the best weapons that we can so that when they go to the rifle range, they can qualify easily without worrying about the maintenance of their weapons,” said Charles Arrick, supervisor of the HQSPTBN armory. “My position is to ensure accountability of weapons and personnel. I also ensure that the Marines here are properly trained according to the armory procedures and guidelines. When it comes to their training, I make sure that they stay efficient.”
Lance Cpl. Jacob Bachman, an electronic optics ordnance repairman with the HQSPTBN armory, manages other essential equipment that are crucial to weapons. He said that the process after qualifying at the range is meant to be as quick and easy as possible.
“(Marines from the range) come in, we re-issue their weapons and they clean them,” said Bachman. “When it is time for inspections, we have a checklist we go through and basically we make sure everything is clean.”
Not everyone knows the best way to clean a rifle. Bachman said one difficulty arises when Marines do not always accept the help of the armorers and think their way to do maintenance on a weapon is the best way. One of the armorer’s sole jobs is to ensure the weapons are at tip-top shape; using improper techniques to clean one can cause permanent damage.
“As an armorer, there will be times when you’ll get a Marine that won’t always know what they’re doing, but they think they do,” said Bachman. “You have to know when it’s appropriate to correct them. Down here, we’re in charge. If we say something is to be done a certain way, there is always a reason behind it.”
Another difficulty is climate control at the armory. Unlike a traditional armory with a closed-off and fenced-in facility, the HQSPTBN armory has an open bay with warehouse-style sliding doors. During operating hours, the doors are always open and the Marines inside are exposed to the elements. The only distinction between the HQSPTBN armory and the other supply warehouses in the industrial area is the orange diamond on the door with a black number ‘4’ in the center of it.
Arricks added that being an armorer is more than just mechanics. They have to maintain thousands of documents and paperwork just in case an incident happens or a weapon malfunctions, the armorers can trace back to find what went wrong.
“The paperwork also helps us improve in what we need to do, where we need to be – our standards,” said Arrick. “My position is to ensure accountability of weapons and personnel, and to make sure everything is done safely and correctly by the manuals,” said Arrick. “When it comes to their training, I make sure that they stay proficient on weapons, repairing and that they understand the procedures.”
He added that armorers are not in the ‘limelight,’ but their military occupational specialty is one of the most important in the Marine Corps.
“(The armorers) are just like a spark plug you’ll need in a car. Without us, you’re not getting too far,” said Arrick.