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Marines serving with Charlie Company, 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, conduct a live-fire range during a training exercise here, Aug. 27, 2013. The purpose of the range was to give crewmembers of the amphibious assault vehicle a chance to refine their skills with the .50 caliber machine gun and the 40 mm grenade launcher. The Marines performed the exercise in preparation for their upcoming deployment to Okinawa, Japan, where they will support joint operations in the Pacific.

Photo by Cpl. James Gulliver

Crewmen master AAV’s weapons systems

4 Sep 2013 | Cpl. James Gulliver

When 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion assaults a beach, they bring with them firepower that can prove to be a decisive factor in winning a battle.

Marines serving with Charlie Company, 3rd AABn., conducted a live-fire range to refine their skills in operating and maintaining the .50 caliber machine gun and the 40 mm grenade launcher, two heavy machine guns native to their amphibious assault vehicles.

“These weapons systems are intended to give our Marines fire support when they land on a beachhead,” said Cpl. Jacob Morrison, an assistant section leader with Charlie Company, 3rd AABn. 

The .50 cal machine gun and 40 mm grenade launcher are both used for destroying enemy fortified positions and eliminating light armored, enemy vehicles.

“A tactic we use while employing these weapons systems is to mark a target with the .50 cal, then destroy it with the 40 mm,” said Morrision, a native of Walla Walla, Wash. “We can use the .50 caliber to figure out the distance to the target, so when we fire the 40 mm, we don’t have readjust our aim. We can hit it dead on and eliminate the target.”

The amphibious assault vehicle can carry up to 23 combat ready Marines, making the weapons systems on the AAV vital to supporting the infantrymen when they dismount to eliminate an objective.

“When the infantrymen dismount, they need to be confident that we have their back,” said 1st Lt. Robert Busalacchi, a platoon commander with Charlie Company, 3rd AABn. “We can’t just drop them off at an objective. We have to be able to help them take that objective and eliminate any enemy threat.”

The crewmen must not only be able to fire the weapons, but know how to disassemble, clean and fix any malfunctions that might occur in a combat situation, said Busalacchi, a native of Arbor Vitae, Wis.

The live-fire range was part of a four-day field exercise designed to prepare the Marines for their upcoming deployment to Okinawa, Japan, where they will support joint operations in the Pacific.

“If we don’t do this kind of training now before we deploy, we won’t know how we will operate overseas,” said 1st Lt. Tyrel Campbell, the executive officer of Charlie Co. “We have to make sure we are proficient with our weapons systems before we work with other allied nations.”
 
The Marines’ proficiency with the weapons systems improved throughout the duration of the range, increasing their confidence for future combat operations, Morrison said.