CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait (Feb. 19, 2015) -- Early morning haze covers the aqua colored waters of Kuwait Bay like a soft fluffy comforter, as the Landing Craft Utility 2016 "Corinth" prepared to go underway in order to conduct a waterborne weapons familiarization range 15 miles off the coast in "Hotbox Charlie," Feb. 9.
"Today's focus and overall purpose is for weapons familiarization, as we get underway on various missions we need to be on top of our game and be on point," said Spc. Corey Ford, a watercraft operator and firer during the range.
"It doesn't matter if you're [quick reaction force] downrange, the same goes for us. We need to make sure that our response time and familiarization of our weapons systems are on point for vessel defense," he added.
A small crew of 17, assigned to the 97th Transportation Company, 10th Transportation Battalion, 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary) from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, containing watercraft engineers and operators, received the opportunity to fire various weapons systems from its onboard armory. This would allow them to gain an understanding of how important it is to time, aim and fire while the vessel is in motion in order to protect the vessel and its cargo against potential threats at sea.
"The wet range allows us to employ our weapons systems in the area in which we operate," said Staff Sgt. Timothy Underwood, watercraft operator second mate. "We'll sail to a safe location, deploy some targets that will float on the surface of the water, where we will fire from our defensive positions on the boat and engage them with our shoulder fired weapons; M16A2, 9 millimeter, shotguns; all the weapons we will use on the boat to defend ourselves."
On the main deck, protected in bright orange floatation vests, Soldiers inflate amber colored nine foot self-sealing cube targets called "Killer Tomatoes," which will be released at sea. Some have funny faces; others are painted with makeshift mortar teams or signed with love from the LCU-2016.
"Let the range [non-commissioned officer] NCO know that we are ten miles inside the box," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jason Milligan, the vessel master.
Rising and falling to the motion in the sea, the "Killer Tomatoes" are released and provide a bright hue against the greenish blue water and the dusty white horizon. The engines were stalled, and everyone is required to wear their eye protection, Kevlar body armor and gloves, because the range was designated as hot. Safety is paramount on the vessel; all teams must enter and exit through the bridge for accountability purposes.
Once the training area has been reached security sweeps were conducted visually, radial and radio securte [nautical term for secure] calls were made every 30 minutes. Due to the fact that it's a waterborne range, safety precautions must be put in place to make sure other vessels in the area do not enter the firing areas.
"It's a maritime requirement that we broadcast, our position, what our intent is, where the mission will be happening and for any vessels that have questions to contact us and all other vessels to stay clear of the area," said Underwood. "We will broadcast those security calls religiously until out of the area."
"Securte, securte, securte, this is the U.S. Army vessel Corinth and will be conducting a live fire exercise," said Underwood as he conducted a security transmission. "All vessels are instructed to remain clear of the exercise area."
Out on the second deck port, starboard and aft, weapons stations were prepared for engagement and Soldiers awaited the approval of the vessel master. The Soldier behind the weapon was told to move the selector switch from safe and fire. Thuds and white timed splashes were seen and heard in the distance as the 240B machine gun engaged the "Killer Tomatoes."
"The dynamics of firing a weapon onboard a vessel are completely different than firing them at a regular range," Ford said.
"When we're in garrison, we will conduct the standard M16A2 ranges like every other unit and a crew served weapons range," said Ford. "This range was special due to the fact we were able to employ all weapons systems we would underway."
For more than four hours, multiple weapons systems were used as the instability of the ocean caused the vessel to rock and roll. The waterborne range is described as firing your qualified weapon at a stationary target while inside of an Abrams tank going 30 miles per hour. It proved to be difficult at first, but the firers were able to adjust and place rounds on target in a timely manner from multiple stations onboard the watercraft.
The Corinth is a pre-positioned vessel that provides maritime support for combatant commanders to move supplies from sea to shore.