The first shots go off and the ground begins to shake as the booms of mortars are heard off in the distance. Speeding bullets slice through the air as targets down range topple over in defeat. The sounds of people shouting join the clattering of shells and whizzing of bullets.
Those shouts are cheers from Sailors assigned to USS Nimitz Weapons Department and Security Division as they root on their shipmates while conducting their annual shooting qualification for the M240 rifle.
“This is great training, everybody’s pretty excited and motivated,” said Ensign Virgil Fermin, the Ship’s Gunner for Nimitz. ”There’s no better training than actually getting trigger time.”
For live fire evolutions, safety is a must, especially because some Sailors are qualifying on the weapon for the first time. Before the Sailors were allowed to go to the range, they were taught how to use the weapon while it was unloaded. This type of training is called “dry-fire” and is required fleet wide for all Sailors attempting to earn a weapons qualification.
“When you’re in Weapons Department or Security, you need to be qualified in every weapon,” said Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Kyle Roest, assistant leading petty officer for G2 division on Nimitz. “We’re the security of the ship and need to know how to handle the weapons we’re issued.
Fermin said that this training is important for everyone because it keeps them operational as a department.
“This training gives junior Sailors exposure to these machine guns,” said Fermin. “We’re trying to stay proficient so that when we get out of the yards, our Sailors already have trigger time. It compliments our force protection readiness. These Sailors have to be proficient enough to know how to clear the weapon or how to handle a misfire.”
Normally these types of evolutions take place on the flight deck while out at sea. Since Nimitz is currently in the shipyard for maintenance, the evolution took place at Joint Base Lewis-McCord, Wash.
“It’s really nice to be in this type of environment,” said Roest. It lets these guys understand what happens in a real life environment.”
All the necessary safety precautions were taken and these Sailors are now ready and qualified to defend the ship in case an event does arise.
“We’ve lined ourselves up with what the Captain’s vision is,” said Fermin. “The Captain made it pretty clear that we want to fix for a fight coming out of the yards. So, our long term vision in weapons department is not just planning for tomorrow, but for six to seven months from now; We want to be ready to be deployable.”
Story and photos by MCSA Weston Mohr