Former firefighter off to Iraq

28 Sep 2004 | Lance Cpl. Athanasios L. Genos

“Contact right, contact right, contact right!” yelled the Marines at first sight of the enemy while patrolling along a hilly treeline.   The four three-man mortar teams quickly set up and began pounding the enemy positions.

This was not Pfc. Sean O. Currie’s first combat experience on a remote hill in some part of Iraq or Afghanistan, but instead part of a three-day field exercise preparing Marines for deployment in support of the Global War on Terrorism. 

Currie, 20, who grew up in Harlem, N.Y., and later moved to Hope Mills, N.C., is a mortarman with 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment who is taking part in the exercise.

Currie is responsible for tactical employment of the 60mm light mortar used to provide indirect fire in support of rifle platoons with his company.  This exercise is part of training to refine Currie and his unit’s  combat skills in preparation for an upcoming deployment to Iraq, and focuses on mortar employment in a variety of combat situations.   

“Even though there are Marines training together from other companies, we are still working as one group just like a single company would,” Currie said, who was a firefighter with Station 21 Fire Department in Hope Mills, N.C.

Previously, as a firefighter he became accustomed to having a fast paced, and action filled job.  Currie’s action filled lifestyle was something he was also looking forward to having in the Corps.

"Using live fire helps prepare the unit for real time situations that may be presented while overseas,” said Currie, when talking about how he enjoys the thrill of an action packed day at work.

Coming right out of his mortarman course at the School of Infantry at Camp Geiger, N.C., he didn’t have much real world experience. 

Preparing for operations in Iraq, Currie and his unit began the training with direct fire on multiple targets, which were at unknown ranges.  Each team had a team leader and three gunners.  Each gunner would rotate from the positions of aiming, loading and ammo distributor.

To further refine his skills, he practiced in several diverse firing techniques that were used to engage the targets. 

The first firing technique he practiced was looking through the scope to aim at the targets for direct fire. The next technique used aiming stakes as markers to fire mortar rounds at unseen targets. Finally, using his own strength and steadiness, he used free-movement aiming to practice rapid engagement of targets.  

“This training helps me get faster and better at what I do along with being more proficient,” said the 2002 graduate of Hoke County High School in Hope Mills.

Every Marine from Currie’s team would have a chance to become more proficient at each position.  This ensured the Marines like Currie were capable of performing the job of fellow Marines under any circumstances. 

“We learn all the jobs because you don’t know when you will have to take another Marines position, and he may be doing a different job than you,” Currie said. 

Along with the day fire, night fire was a major part of the instruction and learning process for Currie and his fellow Marines.  Four teams were set up for the night fire; two teams provided illumination while the other two teams quickly acquired the position of the target and engage them with fire.  

“This type of training evolution is beneficial for those Marines who have only been out of the School of Infantry for a short while, they get a chance to do live fire instead of running dry fire drills,” said Cpl. Matt Ingham, an Altoona, Penn., native and section leader.  

Muscle memory helps the Marines remember and become more capable of performing their jobs successfully.  The repetition of drills over and over to create muscle memory and knowing each other’s jobs, just as well as their own, are reasons why the Marines are able to perform their duties in the most effective manner possible.