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Practice makes perfect for ‘New England’s Own’

21 Jun 2006 | Cpl. Brian Reimers

Knowing their gear and personal weapons inside and out is essential for keeping Marines victorious and alive in combat.

Marines from 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, recently fired their weapons and tested their gear once over to ensure they are comfortable using and relying on the equipment they employ to fight insurgents.

“Even though we are out on missions in the city a lot, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are firing your weapon,” said Sgt. Hiram L. Lachapelle, from Cape Coral, Fla., who instructed the combat conditioning course for the Marines.

Utilizing silhouette targets on a range here, Marines refreshed their combat shooting skills by shooting while walking, kneeling, and lying down.

“We do this kind of training to make sure that we do not forget what we have learned and make the least amount of mistakes possible,” said Cpl. Jamal L. Cofield, a radio operator for the battalion.

More than 130 rounds were fired by each of the Marines while wearing all of their gear.

Each Marine set-up his ammunition pouches in a personalized way to make their gear comfortable to wear for long periods of time, and to make quick magazine changes without hesitating.

“It is kind of like tying your boots. There are a lot of ways to do it, but you do it based on what works for you and is comfortable,” said Sgt. Jeremy L. Hager, the battalion’s information operations chief, from Cape Geradeau, Miss.

Gear arrangement was tested as the shooters were forced to fire on the move and change magazines without losing sight of their targets.

“It’s good to put rounds down range, it keeps me fresh and I learned how to use a piece of gear I really never had a chance to use,” Hager said about his military issued empty-magazine pouch.  “It is a great piece of gear when you are firing multiple magazines.”

“Targets,” Lachapelle shouted as the shooters rapidly shouldered their issued rifles and aimed in to the black center of paper mounted in front of them.

“Muscle memory is what it comes down too,” said Cofield, 21, of Flint, Mich.  “Being able to reach for your rounds and get them without even thinking about it could be the difference in living or being wounded in combat,”

Commands were given while Marines fired and moved, making them adjust to various scenarios while putting rounds on target anywhere from seven to 50 meters away.

“Most of the engagements that we see in urban environments are relatively close, so that is what I practiced with the Marines here,” Lachapelle said.

Marines tried to adjust their sights for the various distances to the targets as the sun set over the sand barrier of the range.

“We don’t always get to choose when and where we fight, but we can train for every possible situation out there,” 23-year-old Lachapelle explained about having the Marines practice shooting under low-light conditions.

After hours of familiarization on the range and multiple firing scenarios, the shooters walked down range to examine their targets to see if the day paid off. For most it was reassuring to see that they would be able to take down an enemy threat at a moment’s notice.

“It’s a great stress reliever.” Cofield said about the opportunity to spend a day at the range.