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1st LAR practice at National Training Center

24 Apr 2008 | Cpl. Dean Davis

Throughout history, the Marine Corps has continued to upgrade its equipment and tactics, maintaining a deadly reputation around the world.

Exemplifying this ethos, Marines of 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, trained for their upcoming deployment to Iraq at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin from April 6 to April 26.

Light armored vehicle-25 crewmen of Companies B, C and D employed Improved Thermal Sight Systems and electric turrets during the battalion’s first major exercise this year, explained Sgt. Richard P. Zapella, a LAV-25 crewman with 1st LAR.

"Each of the companies are doing pretty well throughout most of the tables of fire,” said Zapella, 23, from Rochester Mich. “It’s a lot better sight system, they just have to get used to it.”

It’s a system that Lance Cpl. Jarvie M. Harris Jr., a LAV-25 crewman with Company D, 1st LAR is glad to be using.

“The new sights are laser-guided, which show you the range of a target and how far to lead it. A box then appears in the sight. You put the box on the target and fire. It’s pretty easy,” said Harris, 22, from Rensalaer, Ind. “Using this system gives the whole crew confidence in what we are doing and helps give us muscle memory.”

The old sights required the gunner to line up the target inside a series of lines, a technique called “choking,” explained Zapella.

“With this training we can see the proficiency of each crew and identify what type of engagement they need help with,” Zapella said.

If a crew needs to remediate part of the firing table, they can use the mobile Advanced Gunnery Training System that 1st LAR brought to the training.

“The inside of the system looks just like the LAV-25 turret, but with video screens instead of terrain,” said Zapella.

Shooting through the tables both day and night doesn’t just increase the crews’ technical proficiency, explained Staff Sgt. Joshua J. Lepper, a platoon sergeant with Company D, 1st LAR.

“One of the best parts of this exercise is building crew cohesion, because you live out of these vehicles and get to know your guys,” said Lepper, 30, from Jefferson City, Mo. “They get to qualify on the main gun and improve communication so that when we deploy we can put rounds down range as quickly as possible.”

As training came to a close, everyone agreed that the training and its location were a good match for what they might see during the deployment later this year.

“The ranges here were made for the Army’s M2/A3 Bradley, and they’re working great for us. That’s why we keep coming back,” said Lepper. “We always train for the next conflict. We don’t necessarily know where that might be, so we have to stay on top of our game.”