BLT 2/8 fires up Fort A.P. Hill

22 Oct 2004 | Sgt. Roman Yurek

Battalion Landing Team 2nd. Bn., 8th Marine Regiment, 26 Marine Expeditionary Unit, spent nearly 10 days here October 12-23 putting rounds on target for the first and last battalion-wide conventional weapons exercise scheduled during the MEU's pre-deployment training cycle.BLT 2/8 focused on their basic infantry skills and weapons tactics ranging from small arms to indirect weapons like the M198 155mm Medium Towed Howitzers and M252 81mm mortars.H&S Co.The Headquarters and Service Company began this evolution by making sight adjustments to their weapons and moved right into the Enhanced Marksmanship Program with the other battalion companies. Meanwhile, battalion aide station Sailors worked with other medical personnel from MEU Service Support Group-26 during numerous massive casualty drills here.Another element of H&S Co. providing essential support was the food service Marines. Gunnery Sgt. Thomas P. Black, BLT 2/8 mess chief, said that he pushed out three mobile feeding teams during the training to provide hot meals to the companies that were away from the base camp for most of the exercise. He also maintained a field mess facility at the base camp that provided breakfast and dinner during the entire evolution.Echo, Fox and Golf Co.Echo, Fox and Golf companies focused on weapons marksmanship along with offensive and defensive operations. A new element of their marksmanship training was the Enhanced Marksmanship Program.There are three levels to the EMP, explained 1st Lt. Zaher Bouza, a platoon commander for 1st Plt., Golf Co. The first level is what these Marines executed here, he said. Level one teaches the Marines to aim for the chest and head of a target while moving and turning to the left or right, at 180 and 90-degrees angles.Like a high-tech video game that is all too real, the advanced levels of the program involve moving around barriers and differentiating between friendly and enemy targets.“It makes the Marine decided in a split second weather to pull the trigger on an enemy or hold their fire if it is a civilian,” Bouza said.Weapons Co.In other training, Weapons Company sent their Combined Anti-Armor Team out for machine gun and Tube-launched, Optically-tracked Wire-guided (TOW) missile shoots. The 81mm Mortar Platoon was also able to set up and send rounds "down-range".ReinforcementsMany of the reinforcements that joined the battalion in order to make it a fully-operational BLT were also present to capitalize on the training opportunities on this Army installation.The Light Armored Reconnaissance detachment not only fired their machine guns and 25mm guns, but also honed their route reconnaissance tactics and procedures.India Battery, the BLT’s artillery reinforcement, spent a majority of the exercise firing their 155mm howitzers. However, they were not alone. Accompanying the battery was a group of 12 artillerymen from the Chilean Marine Corps.These Chilean Marines are part of a unit exchange program, explained Capt. JoJo Chames, the U.S. Marine liaison officer for the Chileans.At the end of the training, Sgt. Maj. Jeffery A. Zink, the BLT 2/8 sergeant major, spoke to his Marines to put the training in context. He told them there are two types of Marines, technically proficient Marines and professional Marines.“Technical proficiency comes from training and knowing your job,” said Zink. “Professionalism is something from within you. It is what you stand for and what you are about… I will take a professional every day of the week.”He added that, from what he saw during this training, he is confident BLT 2/8 has professional Marines from privates first class through first sergeants.With this training complete, the BLT will continue to apply their skills toward the 26th MEU’s completion of the Special Operations Capable qualification.To follow BLT 2/8 and the 26th MEU through the predeployment training, visit www.26meu.usmc.mil.