Essex Sailors Complete Intense Weapons Qualifications
150530-N-SF984-538 PACIFIC OCEAN (May 30, 2015) Gunner's Mate 3rd Class Dominic Sandoval replaces targets during a small arms qualification on the flight deck of Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47). The Essex Amphibious Ready Group is currently operating in the 7th fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chelsea Troy Milburn/Released)
Essex Sailors Complete Intense Weapons Qualifications
PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- Sailors aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) completed a massive 10-day firearms qualification course June 2.

More than 150 Sailors attended the small-arms fire courses held by shipboard gunner's mates.

The training course consisted of an eight-hour classroom session in addition to regular three-hour sessions throughout the week. According to Chief Gunner's Mate David Pierce, the hours of work and the number of Sailors who completed the course are routine.

Pierce holds a high standard for Sailors going through the course and the gunner's mates working hands-on to equip these Sailors with the tools they need to succeed.

"Our main concern is the training. We're providing training like these guys have never seen before because we're ensuring that they get it right the first time," said Pierce. "The quality in the shooter is diminished every time we rush it. Thorough, supervised training is essentially the goal."

The firearms course teaches basic fundamentals of pistol marksmanship with an emphasis on personal protection and philosophy of use.

"We take everyone through simple things as far as the attitude, your stance and body position, and grip," said Pierce. "The main objective is getting these guys in the mindset of, if you have to engage anybody, lives are at stake."

Pierce and his team serve a crucial role in keeping the crew and the ship firearm qualified and prepared to face potential danger. At the end of firearms training, every Sailor who completed the course should be fully capable of employing these weapons.

"We don't want people to leave our classroom feeling uncomfortable with a weapon, and most certainly on the range feeling uncomfortable with it," said Pierce. "We will continue to train people until they're ready and we have a team of outstanding instructors that get the job done."

A women's self-defense course may be added to the course curriculum in the future. Despite the hours of training and the busy weeks ahead for the gunner's mates aboard Essex, they remain adamant about keeping their Sailors shooting sharp.

USS Essex is part of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), which consists of Essex, USS Rushmore (LSD 47), USS Anchorage (LPD 23) and their embarked complement of Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (15th MEU).

The Essex ARG and the embarked 15th MEU are deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 7th area of operations.
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