Quantico offers inside look at Marine Corps training
Every few months, the suburban peacefulness of Stafford, Va. is rattled by the rumbles of bomb blasts. It happens when the community's military neighbors to live-fire training.
Sargent Jamie Adams screamed at dozens of other Marines rushing to unleash another mortar during the war games at Marine Corps Base Quantico.
"Fire!," he shouts.
Over the last five years, the United States Marine Corps has sent 10,000 Marines through the rigorous training. Eight times a year, men and women participate in a day-long, live-fire training to prepare them for battle.
Captain Joseph Sawyer said, "This is as close to combat in a non-combat scenario as we can get...this is our trade; to be able to come out here and refine it is imperative."
At the same, three miles away, about 10 more Marines are literally calling the shots.
"This is basically a fire support board to help us coordinate all of our fires," said Marine Jesse Knight pointing to a map on a wood table.
Each time a round is fired, the men dictate over a radio where it should land.
Marine Lonny Washington Paige said, "You don't need to always see the target, and you don't always need to see the gun line. You can just make things work through communication."
It's an exceptional task given the volume of fire.
In one day, the Marines let off 300 rounds of mortars and 200 rounds of artillery.
Knight added, "We're getting a lot of training, and that's why we're letting off so many rounds..."
In the quiet moments between rounds of mortar fire, the scene looks like a simple operation. But back at range control, schedulers are coordinating dozens of dangerous trainings to take place at once.
At any given time, there are roughly 13 active ranges out of 54 live-fire training, demolition and specialized training ranges. The FBI conducts its own training on 10 ranges, and many local police departments and federal agencies train on the base.
Marines assigned to the range control handle more than 6,000 requests for trainings per year.
Christopher Beck, a range control specialist at Quantico, said, "There really is no room for error in this room.”
Ever Marine Corps officer trains at the base, and many make it back to Quantico at some point during their career.
Range Operation Officer James Woodfin said the training Marines receive at Quantico is critical to bringing them home.
Woddfin added, "You hear stories of lieutenants and platoon sergeants that make life or death decisions when they’re in combat, and a lot of stuff comes from places like this, from the first training they see.”
Would you like to contribute to this story? Join the discussion.