Support our mission
Members of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit aim for a distant hillside on Range 8 on Okinawa while firing practice rounds from the M203 grenade launchers attached to their M-16 A2s. The Marines on the far end are surrounded by a cloud of orange chalk that prematurely released from a practice round.

Members of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit aim for a distant hillside on Range 8 on Okinawa while firing practice rounds from the M203 grenade launchers attached to their M-16 A2s. The Marines on the far end are surrounded by a cloud of orange chalk that prematurely released from a practice round. (Fred Zimmerman / S&S)

Members of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit aim for a distant hillside on Range 8 on Okinawa while firing practice rounds from the M203 grenade launchers attached to their M-16 A2s. The Marines on the far end are surrounded by a cloud of orange chalk that prematurely released from a practice round.

Members of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit aim for a distant hillside on Range 8 on Okinawa while firing practice rounds from the M203 grenade launchers attached to their M-16 A2s. The Marines on the far end are surrounded by a cloud of orange chalk that prematurely released from a practice round. (Fred Zimmerman / S&S)

Cpl. Ryan Dankenbring, a radio operator with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, fires a faulty M203 grenade practice round that broke apart and released its orange chalk.

Cpl. Ryan Dankenbring, a radio operator with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, fires a faulty M203 grenade practice round that broke apart and released its orange chalk. (Fred Zimmerman / S&S)

Members of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, load rounds into an M240G machine gun during training on Range 8 on Okinawa. More than 40 members of the 31st MEU received four days of refresher training on various weapons from the Marksmanship Training Unit on Camp Hansen.

Members of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, load rounds into an M240G machine gun during training on Range 8 on Okinawa. More than 40 members of the 31st MEU received four days of refresher training on various weapons from the Marksmanship Training Unit on Camp Hansen. (Fred Zimmerman / S&S)

Cpl. Raymond Terlaje, a Stinger gunner with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, loads rounds into an M240G machine gun training on Range 8 on Okinawa.

Cpl. Raymond Terlaje, a Stinger gunner with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, loads rounds into an M240G machine gun training on Range 8 on Okinawa. (Fred Zimmerman / S&S)

CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa — More than 40 Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 spent four days here last week honing force protection skills and becoming reacquainted with several weapons in the Marine Corps arsenal.

The refresher course kicked off Monday with force protection training. Staff Sgt. Vedel Poindexter, staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the Marksmanship Training Unit that conducted the training, said the group was taught about vehicle control points, to include searching vehicles and access.

Marines trained the last three days with weapons, taking part in live-fire familiarization shoots, Poindexter said. Armed with M9 pistols, M1014 combat shotguns, M249 Squad Automatic Weapons, M203 grenade launchers and M240G machine guns, the Marines trained with weapons some hadn’t fired since boot camp.

“They hardly get any time on these weapons,” said Poindexter. “This is to enhance what the Marines have received in previous training … refresher training to hone the skills that all Marines must have whether they’re in theater, in the Fleet Marine Force, or a Reserve unit.”

Poindexter said the majority of the Marines were from support billets who usually only fire weapons on annual trips to the rifle range.

Each morning, the group received training on the weapons they would fire that day, Poindexter said. They would then travel to one of the firing ranges in the afternoon to conduct the familiarization fire.

“I think this training is great,” said 2nd Lt. James W. Sparks Jr., assistant officer in charge of the 31st MEU’s Aviation Support Element. “A lot of these Marines haven’t had any time on these weapons since boot camp or Marine Combat Training.”

Sparks would like to see this kind of training take place more often, he said.

“If we can get classes like this periodically, or through annual training, they’ll retain more and more of what they learn,” he said.

One Marine said it’s been more than two years since he touched such weapons.

“This is the best training I’ve seen in a while … it’s something I’d like to do more often,” said Cpl. Ryan Dankenbring, a radio operator with the 31st MEU.

The training was provided by the III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group’s MTU on Camp Hansen. Poindexter said this is the first time his unit conducted this kind of training.

“We’re an enhanced MTU,” Poindexter said. “So we typically cover rifle and pistol qualifications, grass week (marksmanship fundamental refresher training), the [Marine Battle Skills Training] test, the gas chamber and swim qualification.”

Staff Sgt. Garrett Robinson, the chief instructor at MTU, helped come up with the training the Marines received. He said the only thing he would change is maybe adding classes on the M2 .50 caliber machine gun and the MK-19 40mm machine gun. But he added that ammunition for those weapons is hard to come by for training purposes.

Robinson said the training was successful, both for instructors and students.

“The proof is [the students] applying remedial and immediate action by themselves when they have a stoppage on the range,” Robinson said. “They’ve done well and paid attention in class. They’re able to go out there and fire with very little assistance.”

Poindexter said that while this was a first for his unit, he hopes it’s not the last. He said none of his instructors are infantrymen, so by teaching the classes, they’re also learning the weapons of the Corps.

He and Robinson both agreed they would like to do more of this training.

“Whatever they’ll let us do, we’ll do it,” Robinson said.


Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up