MARINE CORPS BASE TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Rounds from an arsenal of weapons are launched, ejected and fired down range everyday here by the Marines with 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division.
Discharging these rounds, however, would not be possible without the constant transportation of ammunition from a handful of Marines that are responsible for all Marines under the charge of 2/6. The leathernecks of the battalion are capitalizing on the wealth of ranges for practically every weapon in the Marine Corps arsenal at the training evolution known as Mojave Viper held here for units rotating into the Iraqi theater of operations. Mojave Viper gives ammunition technician Marines the opportunity to dig deeply into their inventory to make things go boom.
Known as the Boom Wizards throughout Headquarters Company, Sgt. Delford L. McDonald, ammunition chief, and Cpl. Josslyn Selzer, both ammo techns for 2/6, are responsible for the frequented transport of an array of many types of ammunition to ranges across the training area here.
“From rockets to 9mm rounds, we provide everything,” said McDonald. “Although each individual company could take care of their own ammo, it would immensely slow the process of training here. Delivering ammo is the first step to providing the necessary training that 2/6 needs before going to Iraq.”
A typical ammunition run begins at dawn and usually lasts long after the sun sets, said McDonald. The number of vehicles used depends on the type and amount of ammunition called for on a particular range. Manning numerous seven-ton trucks, the drivers and assistant drivers embark with the makeshift convoy as it heads into the desert with many tons of ammunition, a front-loading forklift and ample water that illustrates the demanding work that lays ahead of them.
“Unloading pallet after pallet of mortar rounds can get repetitive at times,” admitted Cpl. Paul B. Hodge, training noncommissioned officer with Headquarters Company, 2/6, who was an assistant driver during a ammunition run. “Although the days are long, I would much rather be doing this that sitting in an office behind the screen of a computer.”
Using the front-loading forklift, pallets of rounds for everything from 155mm artillery and 5.56mm rifle rounds to bangalore torpedoes, frag grenades and anti-personnel obstacle breaching systems are carefully maneuvered into a secured area protected 24 hours every day by Marines who reside next to the encampment each night.
“It’s good training,” simply said by Lance Cpl. Nicholas M. Hebert, a low altitude air defense gunner who is operating as a motor transportation driver with 2/6, who was one of the drivers transporting ammunition. “Sure, this training doesn’t have (improvised explosive devices) detonating under our vehicles or enemy fire, but Mojave Viper is the closest thing we have to being in Iraq.”