MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- In the heat of combat, bullets flying all around and ear-shattering explosions, Marines must have lifesaving reflexes to fall back on. To build these reflexes, Staff Sgt. Gregory D. Evans endured the late afternoon sun beating down on his forehead as he held his rifle up to demonstrate the proper stance to the Marines. Evans handed the weapon back to its owner and the first relay of exhausted Marines lined up during their enhanced marksmanship training.
“Knowing they can effectively engage targets gives them the confidence they need in themselves, their weapons, and their fellow Marines, in order to stay alive in combat,” he said.
Evans watched closely as the first group with the 2nd Intelligence Battalion, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, began their enhanced marksmanship program exercises. The Marines tirelessly practiced all day here, July 20, as the Cleveland native pushed them to near perfection before he let them leave for the day.
“EMP is close quarters combat training,” explained Evans, a systems administrator and EMP instructor for the battalion. “It is intended to teach Marines how to clear houses and engage targets within 50 meters.”
Evans led them through three hours of classes before the Marines had a chance to pick up their rifles. He ensured they all stayed hydrated in the morning, giving them a break every 30 minutes to help keep the Marines focused on their training and practical application.
“They have to know the basics first,” said Staff Sgt. James J. Pancerella, a fellow instructor and assistant maintenance chief with the battalion. “Like threat assessment, rules of engagement, and knowing your target and what’s behind it.”
Evans thoroughly covered each topic, and answered questions about everything from walking in formation and staying aligned, to hand signals and patrolling, in order to ensure the Marines were ready for their exercises. The Marines were also taught to quickly assess and engage the enemy on sight. All of this is done because there isn’t time for sight adjustments during a close combat situation.
The Marines tired quickly as they practiced staying in a perfectly straight line while walking forward with their shoulders nearly touching. Evans’ sharp eyes caught any improper movement along the line, and he made the relay start over until everyone moved perfectly.
“The best part of the training is the camaraderie you build, because you are dependant upon the guy to your left and right for your life,” said Evans as he coached Marines individually.
Evans watched their feet and made adjustments when he needed. His expertise ensured the Marines kept their backs straight, their elbows tight, their heads up, and their shoulders back as they completed their last exercise and walked sideways with their rifles.
Evans told the exhausted group they did a good job before he finally released them for the day. The light breeze carried away their sigh of relief as they began to gather up their gear.
Evans has given them the reflexes they need in order to effectively engage enemies. When these Marines enter their first combat situation, in the middle of enemy fire, the training he gave them will resurface and save their lives.