MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Despite the annoying mosquitoes and thundering storms, Golf Battery continued its training without a second thought.
Nothing was going to stop the Marines of 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment from firing their cannons at Gun Position 23 aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, June 26.
“It’s making everything really heavy,” said Pfc. Matthew I. Larios about the mud. “Every time I run back and forth, it feels like there is more weight on me.”
Ninety-pound, 155 mm explosives were not the only things weighing down Larios, a cannoneer and native of Long Beach, Calif. He also felt weighed down by the amount of pressure while taking part in his first field operation.
“It feels like all eyes are on me,” said Larios. “I feel like I can’t make a mistake. There is no room for error.”
Pressure doesn’t only weigh on the shoulders of Marines who are new to the battery, but it also bears down on the senior Marines.
“Whenever a round goes in the air I put my rank and career on the line,” said Sgt. Luis Torres-Vasquez, a section chief from Bronx, N.Y. “I have to oversee everything with my gun, from loading the proper round to making sure coordinates are correct.”
“I have to ensure the safety of my Marines and make sure they don’t slip and fall with a round, especially because it’s muddy,” said Torres-Vasquez. “Every time we walk, our feet get stuck in the mud.”
The morale of the Marines was being tested after three days of constant work, rain, mud and pressure in the field. They had to look for other reasons to continue their motivation.
“They feed off of my energy, so I have to keep positive energy. If I become negative, they are all going to allow their fatigue to kick in,” said Torres-Vasquez. “It’s another pressure I feel. … Their morale is my morale.”
The 10th Marines regimental commander Col. Clifford Weinstein and Sgt. Maj. David Zhorne decided to pay a visit to the shoot. The leadership believes these types of training environments are helpful to the Marines and their mission.
“Anywhere we set up a howitzer will become a mud pit so of course it brings the morale of our troops down because they have no good place to work,” said 1st Lt. Eric Amundson the executive officer of Golf Battery and a native of Eau Claire, Wis.
As time went on, the Marines were forced to come up with ways to accomplish the mission in the mud. By throwing planks of wood and bundles of sticks on the ground, they were able to create better traction for their vehicles and equipment.
“They have to learn to deal with it because it is what we do,” said Amundson. “One of the main reasons for artillery to exist is inclement weather operations. We can fire in the rain. We can always be there for infantry units as the supporting element when the air support can’t be there or mortars don’t have enough distance.”