MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE --
Marines are riflemen first, trained in the ability to improvise and overcome any challenge when manning a weapon system.
Normally at the range, Marines can see targets and corrections are second nature, but when the Infantry Training Battalion instructors of the School of Infantry East walked up to an M240B set up on a range aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune Sept. 19 one debilitating obstacle was directly in their line of sight – a hill.
With a maximum effective range on targets exceeding 1,000 meters, the M240B is a crew-served, medium machine gun typically employed to fire directly at targets, but like artillery, mortars and even MK-19 grenade launchers, the M240B can be fired from the defilade – where the target is not visible from the gun position.
‘Right 10 degrees, up 15 degrees, how copy?’ ‘Solid copy; firing,’ is commonly heard over the radio at a range aboard MCB Camp Lejeune. Forward observers report targets, relay information to the forward direction center and then to Marines behind the weapons.
With the inability to view where the rounds impact, the Marines behind the weapons need assistance to get rounds on target.
Forward observers sit atop the berm with viewing optics to see the rounds impacting down range. They then report the results and send the adjustments to the forward direction center, which converts observed distances to units the Marines can use to adjust the weapons.
Staff Sgt. Michael P. DeGrove, a machine gun chief with ITB, SOI – East, was tasked with arranging the shoot for the instructors and said shooting from the defilade with the M240B is a ‘lost art.’
The class is only offered in advanced guns, a course most machine gunners don’t have the ability to attend, and if the teaching is not relayed to other Marines, the knowledge will be lost, said DeGrove.
Offered specifically for the instructors, DeGrove said the firing-from-the defilade training helps the instructors improve and adapt their skills, and builds confidence in the ability to use the weapon.
Sgt. Keith Aldridge, instructor with ITB, SOI – East, said firing from the defilade with the M240B was new to him, but after being briefed and going through the training, he said he is confident he could effectively use what he learned in combat.
Although it has been an optional tactic for years, the ‘lost art’ of firing from the defilade with the M240B is still proving itself to be effective training for service members and those in combat.