MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, North Carolina — There is a brief moment of still silence, followed by the crack of the first round leaving the barrel traveling towards its target. Following the first round, the atmosphere erupts with loud bursts from five M-240 Bravo machine guns as Marines with 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion, Marine Air Control Group 28, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing participate in a live-fire training exercise at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Aug. 29-30.

More than 50 Marines with 2nd LAAD familiarized themselves and qualified with the M-240 Bravo machine gun, M249 Squad Automatic Weapon and the M2 Browning .50 caliber machine gun during the training. Before the Marines arrived at the range, they attended two weeks of classes to re-familiarize themselves with the weapon systems and re-affirm knowledge of what to do during a weapon malfunction.

The Marines qualified on the M2 Browning .50 caliber machine gun and the M-240 Bravo machine gun, which is a requirement for them to complete bi-annually. They also participated in a familiarization fire of the M249 SAW, where they engaged targets up to 1,000 meters during the unknown distance range.

“The purpose of the training is to make sure that our Marines are proficient as well as comfortable behind the weapon systems,” said Sgt. Cornelius Greer Jr., a LAAD gunner with the battalion. “We need to know when it comes time for them to use the weapon and engage the enemy, they will be able to properly employ it and have the competence to get the system back in the fight if a malfunction should occur.”

According to 2nd Lt. Jacob Pipping, a platoon commander with 2nd LAAD, the primary mission of the battalion is to provide low altitude ground-to-air weapon support and ground security for air bases.

“2nd LAAD’s mission gives the [Marine Air-Ground Task Force] commander the ability to protect forward air bases and any other designated assets he deems to be vital to mission accomplishment for the Marine Corps,” said Pipping.

As a platoon commander, Pipping stated one of his biggest jobs is to maintain the morale of his Marines.

“They just want to go out and accomplish the mission like any other unit, but sometimes they struggle to see where they fit in the larger picture of the Marine Corps when they are in garrison training every day,” said Pipping. “A big part of maintaining morale is getting to the range and doing things like this. They get behind the weapons systems and regain the feeling that this is where they are meant to be. It lights a fire inside of them.”

The training allows the unit to maintain a position of readiness and makes them available to provide security to installations across the world.

“The training helps us work as a team,” said Greer. “Now, whenever we are tasked to provide security, we will have the groundwork for a team that will be able to complete the mission effectively.”

According to Greer, the targets used on the range were designed to represent the enemy that the Marines will face in forward-deployed environments.

“It gets us back to our roots in the Marine Corps,” said Greer. “Getting out here to connect with one another builds great comradery. The Marines love the loud noises and controlled chaos that comes with it.”