New Marines take 'aim' at sensor support role
February 28, 2013
FORT SILL, Okla. -- A month into their Marine Artillery Sensor Support Man Course (MASSC), new Marines took to the field Feb. 22, 2013 at Fort Sill to learn the basics of the M2A2 Aiming Circle.
Marines use the aiming circle, the Defense Advanced GPS Receiver and other equipment to provide data to firing batteries for orienting and laying howitzers. Artillery survey operations also use the data for target area surveys or to check a surveyed azimuth.
"Once they complete their 14 weeks of training, the Marines will provide survey, meteorological and acoustics sensor support data to various Marine artillery units," said Sgt. Justin Goemmer, MASSC primary instructor. "Of the five requirements for accurate predicted fires, MASSC graduates can provide three, which are accurate target and battery locations, and meteorological data.
Sgt. Chris Feenstra, MASSC assistant instructor, said the students first learn survey procedures on the M2A2, the least accurate piece of equipment then gradually work toward the most accurate devices as the course progresses.
"The accuracy is the pride we take in our work," he said.
As the Marines began setting up their equipment, Feenstra talked them through the procedures. Throughout though, he didn't just tell them the answers, he questioned them seeking their input for key points:
What should you do with the magnetic locking lever when not in use? Keep it locked, they replied in unison.
When measuring an angle, why turn the knob clockwise? To keep the worm gears from wearing out, the loud unison reply answered again.
Later when coaching Pfcs. Brandon Mizukami and Tom Wolf through leveling procedures to a specific point, Feenstra noted their plumb bob not only met the half-inch square requirement but would easily fit in the width of a dime. He told them they did an outstanding job for the first two times setting up the aiming circle. He then said to take it apart and do it again building their familiarity with the equipment.
"Every time you setup an instrument take pride in doing so, do it the most efficiently you can," he told them. "As soon as you say it's OK to cut a corner or not understand the reasons or theories of what you do, you're going to lose that professionalism and proficiency."
Feenstra said when the Marines graduate and go to their units, eventually they would be called upon to survey a firing location for an artillery battery. Normally, survey teams will survey a position before the battery's arrival.
Ultimately, the young Marines are working toward a job that comes with a lot of responsibility.
For those who get promoted to staff sergeant they will return to Fort Sill to attend the advanced level Marine Artillery Operations Chief Course and after graduating transition to the Field Artillery Operations Man MOS.
"It all starts here instilling them with the pride, theory and reason why this works," said Feenstra.
The sergeant said although the Marines will always embrace new technologies and advancement in the surveying community, they will also continue to train on the M2A2 and conventional equipment to have a secondary means of survey support should circumstances require them to adapt.
"It's paramount for them to understand where their profession came from and the theory behind it," said Goemmer. "When they do become the operations chief and are in charge, they will need to be very knowledgeable and articulate in all aspects of their profession.
"If they understand the big picture behind what they do, they can effectively provide accurate fires in the future," he said.