Sept 13, 2013 -- OKINAWA, Japan - Most Marines never forget the memories of when they were issued their first rifle at recruit training, including how they learned basic rifle assembly, disassembly, cleaning and operation of the rifle.
The Marines behind the caged window of the armory that issued the rifle may have been forgotten, but throughout the Marine Corps small-arms repairers and technicians, or armorers, remain a key component to mission success.
Armorers further the Marine Corps’ mission through maintenance and inspection, and by accounting for weapons used in exercises, deployments and military police operations.
A typical day at the armory begins as early as 2:30 a.m., when the technicians begin issuing weapons systems to support operations and training. The armorers ensure all firearms are functional, and in good condition and maintenance.
The armorers conduct a limited technical inspection and a pre-fire inspection prior to each range, according to Cpl. Jason D. Dospoy, a small-arms repairer and technician with Headquarters and Service Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, Marine Corps Installations Pacific.
“We have (tools) that tell us if a weapon is serviceable or not,” said Dospoy. “If something is wrong, we investigate the issue and if we cannot figure out the problem, we mark it with a yellow tag, signifying the weapon is down.”
Common issues with the rifles include cracked or worn parts and barrel obstructions, according to Dospoy. The technicians assess the issues and determine the necessary repair.
“There are different echelons of maintenance,” said Dospoy. “We are a second echelon shop. In the technical manuals, there are certain parts we can order to fix it ourselves, but a lot of the issues are third echelon, so we have to transport the rifles to Camp Hansen for repairs.”
In addition to supporting Marines at the ranges, small-arms repairers and technicians also perform inspections for various military police units, who may have their own weapon issue points.
Supporting separate units provides a unique opportunity for armorers to interact with the wide variety of firearms used throughout the Marine Corps, according to Cpl. Shields L. Woods, a small-arms repairer and technician with H&S Bn.
Maintaining weapons and working as an armorer is a satisfying specialty for most.
“I like the maintenance,” said Woods. “When we get a weapon that’s broken and figure out what is wrong with it, it is like solving a mystery. There’s a satisfaction that comes with accomplishing something (like that).”
For as long as the Marine Corps trains basic riflemen, small-arms repairers and technicians will continue to support unit readiness throughout the fleet by ensuring each weapon system meets the highest standards of performance, according to Woods.
“The Marine Corps’ mission is to fight our nation’s battles and win wars,” said Woods. “We can’t do that with the weapons systems if the systems are not properly maintained. We make sure they are always operational. Infantry Marines can’t shoot without their weapons being (at their best).”