From Mortars to Machine Guns: What it is like to be on a U.S. Navy Vessel

From Mortars to Machine Guns: What it is like to be on a U.S. Navy Vessel

by Lance Cpl. Colton Nicks
31st MEU Communication Strategy and Operations

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Hassan-Thomas Jones shares his story of what it’s like to be an assistant machine gunner, as part of the tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel training exercise, with Battalion Landing Team 3/5, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, aboard the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) June 16, 2021.

“TRAP is a chance to show how versatile the infantry is,” said Jones. “I thoroughly enjoy it because I like the integration aspect of the job. I was a mortarman, but during TRAP I get to experience what it’s like as an assistant machine gunner. Additionally, now I am able to learn even more about the three different elements within 3/5: support, recovery and security.”

While aboard USS America, Jones’ role within the security element during TRAP is to protect aircrafts and personnel as they land in a known location by utilizing an M240 Machine Gun.

“We are in charge of saving people and pulling them out of any wreckage if they are shot down,” he said. “Maintaining that survival focus is important because when we see that fellow warfighter, we need to get them out and get them home. Even if you don’t know them, they are still family, and I’m glad that because of my job, I can be a part of that team who brings them home.”

Prior to TRAP, Jones was a mortarman with the Fire Direction Center. He explains that his job allowed him to see the bigger picture and have a better understanding of a situation at hand. However, he continues that even if a Marine does not fully understand why they need to complete a task, they should have trust and confidence in their leadership.

As Marines, it is always go-time, and at a moment’s notice there may be an assignment and having that rapport within a unit is vital.

“What we are doing now on ship during the TRAP training exercise is pretty awesome,” said Jones. “I like how they are able to use infantry Marines for various tasks that we might not get to experience off ship. With this team, I am literally doing what people see in the Marine Corps commercials; it is what I signed up for.”

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