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Marines, sailors conduct machine gun drills aboard USS Tortuga

US Marine Corps News

By Cpl. Aaron Hostutler, Marine Corps Bases Japan

USS TORTUGA (LSD 46) -- Marines with Landing Force Company conducted a machine gun firing exercise May 23 aboard the USS Tortuga in the South China Sea.

Refreshing skills for Marines and introducing the weapon to sailors, shipboard training provides a productive means to utilize time while in transit.

Landing Force Company is the ground exercise force for Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training 2011 and is comprised primarily of Marines from 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment and 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve.

CARAT is an annual series of bilateral exercises held among the U.S. and Southeast Asian nations with the goals of enhancing regional cooperation, promoting mutual trust and understanding, and increasing operational readiness.

Augmented with staff from III Marine Expeditionary Force, these Marines are training with partner nations throughout the region in core military skills like combat marksmanship, military operations on urban terrain, martial arts, jungle warfare and first-aid.

“It’s a requirement for all of these Marines to fire their weapon at least once a month,” said Capt. Rudy Cazares, the Landing Force Company commander. “Doing these ranges also helps prepare the Marines for the bilateral training.”

Cazares, former company commander for Headquarters Company, 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III MEF, is one of the few active duty Marines in Landing Force Company.

“I’m very happy I volunteered for this opportunity,” Cazares said.

In addition to the Marines’ training, 12 sailors from the USS Tortuga were familiarized with the M240B machine gun and given an opportunity to fire it.

“It was like an adrenaline rush. That’s what I really liked about it,” said Seaman Destinee Ramirez, operation specialist on the USS Tortuga. “The fact that we got to step into the shoes of infantry Marines was really cool, and it was great that they showed us how to use the guns before we shot. I was so excited when I started shooting and I was hitting the target right where I was supposed to.”

Familiarizing the sailors with the weapon was not solely to win the graces of Navy brethren; it also allowed Marines to rehearse instruction of this weapon before doing so with partner militaries.

“Most of the sailors we trained had never shot a machine gun before so it was brand new to them,” said Cpl. Armando Castellanos, a automatic rifleman with Weapons Platoon who taught the sailors about the weapons system before they shot. “Teaching a group of people I have never met and who have never used the machine gun helped build my confidence so that when we train with the next nation I’m even more prepared.”

Marines and sailors participating in CARAT are proceeding to train with Indonesian defense forces next, continuing the tour within their area of operations.

“Learning how foreign nations operate is a cool experience,” Castellanos said. “It’s also cool knowing that I’m leaving a small part of me behind with the other militaries by teaching them how we operate.”

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