CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Marines are no strangers to the armory. Rifle cards, cleaning kits and the smell of weapon lubricant are all familiar. Sometimes, the only contact Marines have with their armorers is when they are issued weapons, so they are unaware of the extent of the armorers duties.
It’s a little known fact that all weapons repairs for II Marine Expeditionary Force are conducted by about 70 Marines at the Infantry Weapons Repair Facility, 2nd Maintenance Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 25, 2nd Marine Logistics Group.
The small size of the platoon allows for a distinct working environment.
“Our platoon gets personal,” said Sgt. Joel K. Browne, an armorer and platoon sergeant for IWRF. “We are in each other’s business. Any problem my Marines have, I have.”
Though emphasis is put on camaraderie, the Marines are well acquainted with hard work and, according to Browne, take great pride in their jobs.
“We have weapons from every unit in II MEF come to us,” said Gunnery
Sgt. Doug Uncapher, the platoon’s intermediate maintenance activity chief.
The repair shop is what is commonly known as a 3rd and 4th echelon.
“The five levels of armory are 1st echelon, which is the operator, 2nd echelon, the armory, 3rd and 4th echelon, us, the intermediate maintenance activity, and 5th echelon, where weapons are completely rebuilt or destroyed,” Uncapher explained. “My Marines are authorized to do anything and everything needed to repair weapons here.”
A common misconception is that the armory is where weapons are repaired. Not so. While Marines at the armory and the repair shop have the same military occupational specialty, 2111, the repair shop armorers have an amplified understanding of weapons. They are cross-trained on all weapon systems used in the Marine Corps.
“Our Marines know all the weapons in and out,” Brown said.
Browne explained that this extensive knowledge can be credited to a dedicated shop and to leaders committed to passing their knowledge and experience on to their junior Marines. It is the responsibility of the IMA Chief, the platoon sergeant, and the section leaders to constantly teach and train their Marines to be as proficient in their MOS as they can be, he added.
“We educate and we share our wealth of knowledge,” Browne said. “I share my experiences that will be beneficial to my Marines. We can become lackadaisical, and it is my job to prevent that.
“We are continuously improving. We always need to be caught up on training.”
Section leaders train the armorers on different weapon systems, help with
heavy work loads, and also teach classes and demonstrate hands-on repairs, so all the armorers are familiar with all weapons.
“Instead of using training manuals, I show them myself,” said Cpl. Billy Hart, the secondary repairables section leader.
“I give classes all the time. My Marines stay busy learning, training, repairing,” Hart added, with an air of pride. “I try to remind my Marines that someone will always know more than you, so we should learn from each other.”
Upon receipt of a weapon that is not functioning properly, the armorers in the repair shop do a full inspection. The armory itself cannot deem a weapon unserviceable, so it’s these Marines’ job to do so. Once a problem is identified on a weapon, it’s placed in a secure location until it can be repaired.
The maintenance management clerks’ determines repair priority for weapons. Weapons that are needed for Marines preparing to deploy are repaired first.
If it is determined that a weapon cannot be repaired or returned to a serviceable state, the shop awaits disposition instructions from 5th echelon.
If a weapon is un-repairable, it’s typically destroyed. Destroyed weapons are replaced quickly.
“We are like an insurance policy. We provide weapon coverage.” Browne compared.
Once a weapon is repaired, it is approved by quality control personnel before being returned to service. At this stage, the weapon is ready to return to its proper place: the warrior’s hands.
Like any well-oiled Marine Corps machine, the infantry weapons repair facility must find a balance between deployment preparation, unit morale and cohesion, Marine Corps skills and training, and MOS proficiency. This platoon seems to have achieved the desired balance.
"We are the tightest community," Uncapher stated, with evident respect for those Marines working in his shop.