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Phrog crew spends some time behind the trigger

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Crewmembers in two CH-46E Sea Knights traded their tools for an afternoon in the sky behind the triggers of some heavy machine guns, Oct. 25.

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364 (Rein.), 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted aerial gunnery and tail gunnery training to refresh the skills of eight of the unit’s crew chiefs as well as aerial tail gunnery qualifications for two of their aerial observers.

“Aerial gunnery training enables us to effectively engage targets from the air in a combat environment,” said Sgt. Kyle M. Crance, CH-46E crew chief and weapons and tactics instructor, HMM-364 (Rein.), 15th MEU. “Additionally, conducting this training will help us stay current and proficient on our qualifications.”

The two Sea Knights expended more than 6,000 rounds in support of the day and night training.

“It’s always a lot of fun to go out and shoot,” said Cpl. Heriberto Velazquez II, CH-46E Sea Knight aerial observer and mechanic, HMM-364 (Rein.), 15th MEU. “Shooting in the sky made it that much more fun,” added the 22-year-old native of Newport News, Va.

The Marines acquired targets with the M240D machine gun and the .50 caliber heavy machine gun from up to 1500 meters away while flying approximately 200 feet above the water.

“I was really looking forward to shooting the M240D,” said Sgt. John H. Kirk VI, aerial gunner, observer and CH-46E Sea Knight mechanic, HMM-364 (Rein.), 15th MEU. “This was my first time shooting from the tail of the helicopter,” added the 25-year-old native of Ramona, Calif.

The training also helped qualify two mechanics for air combat missions – a more advanced qualification reserved for more experienced crewmembers.

“Qualifying these Marines is important because without qualified crews we have less aircraft to support the fight,” said Sgt. Ryan M. St. Antoine, CH-46E crew chief and weapons and tactics instructor, HMM-364 (Rein.), 15th MEU. “The training also enabled our Marines the opportunity to practice engaging targets from the sky,” added the 30-year-old native of Highland, Ind.

The Marines created targets out of wood pallets and glow sticks to enable the Marines to conduct the night portion of their training.

“As Marines, we own the night,” said Crance. “Many missions are conducted at night in order to have the upper hand. We must be prepared for missions day or night, which is what makes this training so important.”

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364 (Rein.) serves as the aviation combat element for the 15th MEU.

The 15th MEU is comprised of approximately 2,400 Marines and sailors and is currently embarked as part of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group, while they serve as the nation's rapid-response sea-based Marine Air Ground Task Force for Western Pacific Deployment 12-02.

Article by Cpl. John Robbart III, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit