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Gun Drills, ADDRAC, Loading and Unloading drills, Gun Drills, disassemble, run, assemble, run, Gun Drills…..
For most machine gunners, that’s the life we endure. Train, train, and train some more. While most of us are known for carrying lots of weight and staring danger in the face, not all gunners get the chance to prove what we are made of. For those that do, they remember the vapor coming off the hot barrels, the intensity of holding down a trigger while walls of lead travel in the direction of their enemy, and one more thing of course. Cleaning the sand off of all the guns after every patrol
Another part of being a machine gunner that most people do not realize is the intellect. Figuring out rounds counts and pause between bursts on the fly is a well-earned skill. Not only do you have to think under pressure, but you have to calculate numbers quickly, or with minutes left in the battle you will be Winchester on ammo. Understanding beaten zones and cones of fire are critical in certain situations, and you can’t fake your way to the top.
The Love of Guns
Many times I remember being the critical asset in a firefight, being able to properly use you MK-19 Grenade Machine Gun to end an enemy ambush could be the result of having friends, or losing them. I have seen many times gunners fight during battle, but I’ve also seen them take the flight option as well. Without that rapid rate of fire to gain fire superiority, riflemen will be left in the open to soak up enemy fire. Having the heart to stand up in a turret while taking fire and giving it back to the enemy is a critical skill all machine gunners need to acquire.
I remember a specific moment in Ramadi Iraq where our four vehicle convoy received enemy fire from the roof tops inside the city. Four months into the deployment all members of the squad knew their jobs and what they had to do to protect each other. Gunners and drivers are completely in sync, and no longer needed to speak to each other to get into the right position to repel the attack. During this particular firefight, I remember vehicle two driving perpendicular to our vehicle , basically passing from left to right in front of us. Without hesitation mid burst, I let off the trigger on my M240 while Billy (in truck 2 on the .50) passed in front of me. I immediately continued to fire when he was clear, and that evening I knew we were all in the right place.
Being a machine gunner, like every other occupation in the military, has a specific pride to it. Although sometimes the road is hard, the hills are steep, and the weight is heavy, you love every minute of it and never turn back!