FORT A.P. HILL, Va. --
“Next Shooter up!” yelled the coach on top of each amphibious assault vehicle, also known as an amtrack.
One by one, the Marines climbed into the cramped gunner’s position and attempted to destroy the practice tanks from various distances.
Some Marines heard, “pass,” meaning they passed the training exercise, while others were less fortunate and were told “remedial,” and had to try again.
By the end, all of the Marines were qualified.
The Marines from 1st Platoon, Company B, Assault Amphibian Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, recently conducted their yearly Up-gunned Weapon Station Table 2 qualifications here.
“The purpose of this training is to complete our annual requirements and to also get the Marines back comfortable using AAVs after operating outside our military occupational specialty during our recent deployment,” said 1st Lt. Brian Jaquith, a 26-year-old from King George, Va., and the company executive officer.
The Marines of Company B returned from Ramadi, Iraq, in October. During their tour they were attached to 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, and were mostly in charge of entry control points in and around the city.
“After our seven-month deployment to Iraq, we had to get readjusted to the amtrack’s weapons systems and we really wanted to get back to our roots,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jason Acord, a 30-year-old from Hampstead, N.C., and the platoon sergeant for 1st Platoon. “Everybody’s a little rusty right now but as the training goes on we will definitely get back into the groove of things.”
Lance Cpl. Christopher Ewain, a 20-year-old from Lake Como, Pa., with 1st Platoon, said he was thrilled to be back in an amtrack and firing off destructive High Explosive Dual Purpose rounds.
“It’s my first time training here and I like it especially because we’re able to shoot live-rounds on a huge open range,” he said. “It’s always intense when you’re live-firing. You don’t really get nervous or scared, but you get very excited. It’s a feeling that never gets old.”
The Marines spent seven months roasting in the Ramadi sun. Their first full company exercise was the complete opposite—they were shivering in the Virginia snow.
“I never trained with ‘tracks’ in the snow, but I guess there’s a first time for everything,” Ewain said. “It’s cold out here, but at least we have heaters.”
Jaquith, decked out in full cold weather gear, said the weather definitely has been an added challenge. But regardless, they were able to make the best of it.
“We do not get the opportunity to see a lot of snow, and training in adverse weather conditions is always a challenge but it is part of the job,” Jaquith said. “It helps the Marines become more proficient at their specialty because it takes them out of their comfort zone and what they’re used to doing.”
According to Jaquith, the Marines are doing a fantastic job at adapting to their environment and overcoming any obstacles.
“They’ve done a great job in handling the weather and getting back into the flow of things,” he said. “It’s great seeing the Marines apply the fundamentals and skills they were taught at the schoolhouse and then practiced and rehearsed in the fleet. It’s really rewarding seeing the Marines go from the ‘crawl, walk, run’ phase and do well.”
The Marines said at the end of the day the weather did not matter. They were there to train.
“The sooner we can get back on the saddle the better,” said Acord. “We’ll take range time, any time.”