By Staff Sgt. Richard Sherba, 8th Military Police Brigade Public Affairs, 8th Theater Sustainment CommandMarch 17, 2014
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii - In the early morning, March 14, well before sunrise, silhouettes of Soldiers can be seen gathering and moving with a sense of purpose in preparation of a much anticipated live-fire gunnery exercise.
At first glance, it's a typical scene. Soldiers moving about actively engaged, and the air filled with the sounds of orders given and the acknowledgment of orders received; but as the Soldiers of the 163rd Transportation Detachment, 545th Transportation Company, 45th Special Troops Battalion, 8th Military Police Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, emerge from the silhouettes, it doesn't take long to realize that these aren't your typical Soldiers, this crew of the U.S. Army Vessel CW3 Harold C. Clinger (LSV-2).
These Soldiers are Army mariners and they possess a unique, specialized skill set and job that perhaps is not known to many in and outside of the Army.
"When you go to the field it's green, when we go to the field it's blue," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Francis Lloyd, commander, 163rd Trans. Det., 545th Trans. Co., 45th STB; and vessel master of USAV CW3 Harold C. Clinger (LSV-2) and USAV Lt. Gen. William B. Bunker (LSV-4).
And just like the vessel master said, it was blue. Blue for miles and miles; blue for hours and hours, as the USAV CW3 Harold C. Clinger (LSV-2) made it's way along the Pacific Ocean en route to the naval wet range site to conduct a live-fire waterborne gunnery exercise.
Lloyd explained the intent of the training exercise was to familiarize the crew with firing from vessel mounted crew-served weapon positions at sea; he then went on to speak about the challenges of firing weapons at sea.
"It's challenging because the vessel is pitching and yawing as [gunners] are engaging the target. We're also turning [the vessel] to make sure the proper side of the vessel is facing the target," said Lloyd.
Providing the crew with the experience of firing crew-served weapons in real life conditions such as Lloyd described is invaluable, and it's what makes waterborne ranges so beneficial to the training of Army mariners.
Spc. Ralphaul Bell, basic engineman, 163rd Trans. Det., 545th Trans. Co., 45th STB, manned an M249 squad automatic weapon during the live-fire range and spoke about the experience.
"It was actually pretty fun. We had our battalion commander and command sergeant major, as well as our company commander and first sergeant [on board the LSV-2] for the training," said Bell. "The last time I have done training like this is when I was deployed to Kuwait. I love this type of training."
Bell then spoke about the high paced training atmosphere aboard the vessel.
"You never know when your going to be deployed, you have to be ready to go and you have to have Soldiers ready to go on these weapon systems. If you train all lackadaisical and nonchalant, then when you deploy you're going to do the same thing. That's why no matter what we're doing on this vessel we go all out and full speed. I love doing this job, and I wouldn't change jobs for the world," said Bell.
Pfc. Derek Evans, food service specialist, 163rd Trans. Det., 545th Trans. Co., 45th STB, manned an M2 .50 Cal machine gun during the exercise and also spoke about his experience.
"I really enjoyed it; you don't get the chance to do a live-fire training exercise often. We have trained on and learned all these weapon systems, but now I really have an actual feel to it, in this type of environment. It was a challenge when the waves were hitting back and forth on the vessel. I just stayed focused on the target and the task at hand, being safe and balancing the weapon," said Evans.
After the exercise came to an end, and the vessel was headed back to home berth, Lt. Col. Don Fagnan, battalion commander, 45th STB, reflected on his Soldiers performance.
"This was a good chance for [Soldiers] to defend the vessel in case of an attack," said Fagnan. "The live fire definitely built confidence. There were a lot of great gunners out there today; shooting with the vessel, moving back and forth with the waves, and putting rounds on target."