It’s a sunny day out in the fields of a small town in Southern California. Anticipation builds as he aims his gun and patiently waits to shoot the clay pigeons that are soaring in the hot summer sky. A smile forms across his face as he lowers his shotgun. He did it. He hit his target. His dad and grandfather compliment him on how much he has improved on his shooting skills. This is the proudest moment of his life.
“It was the last time I saw my grandfather,” said Gummer’s Mate (GM) 2nd Class Joseph Janelle, of Apple Valley, Calif. “It was the last time my grandfather, father, my brother-in-law and I shot together before my grandfather passed away.”
Janelle is a crew served weapons instructor, and trains Sailors in the security forces on board the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68).
He comes from a family of gunsmiths; you can say that being a gunner’s mate runs in his blood.
“I was a gun guy well before the Navy,” said Janelle. “My grandfather and my father were gunsmiths, and I’ve kind of taken up the trait at home, learning how to build stocks and perform trigger modifications. I’m actually looking into building a custom rifle for myself.”
Janelle wasn’t always a gunner’s mate. He used to be an undesignated seaman, but soon discovered his passion for the gunner’s mate rate. After working day in and day-out pulling lines, chipping paint and performing corrosion prevention, he would head down to the armory and train with the GMs. He took time out of his day to learn their qualifications, and what it took to become a gunner’s mate.
“I knew from the get-go if I was going to be anything on this ship, it was going to be a gunners mate.”
Gunner’s mates, surprisingly spend a majority of their time teaching rather than shooting. Janelle trains and coaches Sailors in security that need gun qualifications.
“You would think being a gunner’s mate meant you shoot all the time, but actually we teach a lot more than we shoot,” said Janelle.
When it comes to firearms, Janelle takes the training seriously. One small mistake on the range can be the difference between a successful exercise or serious injury, or even worse.
When Janelle is training Sailors on firearms, he has to watch the shooter’s hand placement on the weapon, where their eyes are focused and their body position. It is imperative they are following all the correct steps and procedures while handling the weapon.
“We see it all the time, and that’s where that stress level comes into play,” said Janelle. “If they aren’t doing what they are suppose to be doing, and we don’t see it, it can potentially be bad for them and for me.”
Janelle says being a GM is more than just a job, its about being part of the gunner’s mate family. He said he has never met another gunner who didn’t have pride in their line of work.
“When you meet another gunner’s mate from another command you just know that they are a gunner’s mate,” said Janelle. “It’s a mutual respect. Whether you make chief or limited duty officer, you are a gunner’s mate above everything else.”
There are gunner’s mates in Janelle’s department who look up to him, because he trains them on how to perform the correct maintenance on weapons, how to stand watches and knowledge about their rate.
“He is an interesting character,” said Gunner’s Mate Seaman Jonathan Baker, of Marysville, Wash. “Definitely someone that grows on you. I can go to him and talk about anything. He is a great mentor and a great person to pick his brain and learn anything about the gunner’s mate rate.”
Janelle likes to be hands on when it comes to training. While performing gun maintenance he goes in depth with his junior Sailors and covers every step thoroughly. If they have a question about the different parts of the gun, he will show them and explain exactly what part of the gun it is and what function it performs.
“He is more hands on, which is great because that is how I learn,” said Baker. “He is very descriptive on his training. It’s really nice to learn that way.”
“It’s important that any watch captain knows exactly what to do. The way GM2 Janelle teaches them, it clicks and it sticks,” said Baker.
Baker has learned how to be a teacher himself by observing Janelle teach.
“I was never a good teacher, but because of what I’ve learned from him I’ve become more comfortable providing training to other Sailors,” said Baker. “You can kind of say that I’ve modeled my training after his.”
When Janelle sees the smiles on the faces of his GMs hitting the target, it reminds him of that moment in the field when he shot his first clay pigeon. But more than that, it gives him a sense of pride and accomplishment.
“No matter if they are junior or senior, when you start training you start talking to them, you learn how to see people and how to read people,” said Janelle. “It teaches me a lot of patience and it opens my eyes to what it means about being in the Navy.”
Story and photos by MC3(SW) Kelly M. Agee