Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va --
The call comes in over the radio and Marines spring into action. The section chief shouts coordinates as his Marines prepare to fire. One Marine hauls a 155mm round up to the feed tray arm and, as the arm drops into place, the round is placed into the breech. Two Marines rush forward with a ramming bar, pushing it into the cannon with a distinct “THUNK.” The charge is set behind the round and the breach is sealed, ready to fire. The firing lanyard is placed and with a swift tug – BOOM - a round weighing about 100-pounds rockets off to its target.
More than 20 Marines with Artillery Instructor Battery, Combat Instructor Company, Instructor Battalion, The Basic School brought out the big guns to Range 4 for a call for fire exercise Nov. 28.
“This is the culminating event in the indirect fire package at TBS,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Mahaffey, Operations Chief for AIB, “as instructors, we’re trying to sell artillery to the lieutenants.”
At this point in their training, the freshly minted officers are expected to decide what career path they want to walk. According to Mahaffey, the fast paced, high impact life of artillery is a hard life to pass up.
“This is our chance to impress these lieutenants before they make the choice of what [millitary occupancy specialty] they want to be. This is our chance to show them what we do. I want to impress them and make a lieutenant want to be an artilleryman,” said Mahaffey, whose former battery commander decided he wanted to be an artillery officer during the same evolution that he now oversees.
Beyond trying to produce the next generation of artillery officers, the work AIB does with the lieutenants builds better enlisted-commissioned relationships and, in turn, officers are better equipped to lead.
“That’s what enlisted instruction at TBS is all about,” Mahaffey said. “It gives these junior officers a chance to ask about the noncommissioned officers’ and platoon commander’s relationship.”
The most asked question, according to Sgt. Zachary Myers, Gun 2 section chief, is what is expected of a good platoon commander by his enlisted platoon. Myers, who has had four years of experience in the Fleet Marine Force, gladly answers questions like this, because it gives him a sense of responsibility.
“I’m setting up fellow NCOs and fellow Marines with great lieutenants,” said Myers. “I know what makes a good platoon commander. When they come down to the gun line I like to pass that knowledge.”
Sgt. Jeffrey Williams, one of the Marines servicing Gun 2, feels similar to Myers about his instructor duties.
“I get to see my product when I get back to the fleet,” Williams said. “As an NCO, I reap the benefits of what we do here when I get back out to the fleet.”
The Marines of AIB showcase the powerful weapons of the Marine Corps arsenal while teaching the new lieutenants about effective leadership. Not only are these artillerymen the kings of battle, but they are one of the first stepping stones of leadership.