CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan – --
Military occupational specialties are the foundation of the Marine Corps. Each MOS is a cog, working with and relying on each other to keep the fighting machine that is the United States Marine Corps running. The small arms repair technicians are one such cog.
The Marine Corps is known for its combat readiness, able to deploy at anytime and anywhere. Small arms technicians are responsible for many of the weapons that all Marines operate.
“We take care of all small arms Marine Corps weapons,” said Cpl. Aimuel Fairchild, a small arms repair technician with Combat Logistics Battalion 4, Combat Logistics Regiment, 3rd Marine Logistics Group. “We work on M16 A4 service rifle, M4 carbine, M4 A1 carbine, M9 service pistol and the 27 IR M2 .50 caliber that is being replaced by the M2 A1 .50 caliber.”
Before the Marines are assigned to the operating forces, and inherit the responsibilities of arming these combat ready Marines, they must complete a three-month-long entry level course at the schoolhouse. There, they learn as much as possible about the weapons within the Marine Corps they will one day maintain.
“Our school is in Ft. Lee, Virginia,” said Lance Cpl. Joey Rhodes, small arms repair technician with Marine Corps Installations Pacific – Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, Japan. “The classes are small with about 15 people, made up of both Marines and Army. During that three months, we learn all the different weapons systems that the Marine Corps has, including some that we may never get to work on in our career, unless we are with a specialized unit.”
Upon graduation, they are left with a daunting task; being assigned to the fleet Marine force. In the operating force they will be the weapons expert in the field, in the armory, and on the ranges. Small arms repair technicians have the unique ability to perform three different billets when they leave the schoolhouse. Each, with a generous amount of responsibility.
“The responsibility is both the best and most challenging part of this job,” said Fairchild, maintenance chief of CLB-4 armory. “Coming straight into the fleet after school you don’t know if you will be a normal small arms repair technician, or if you will go straight into a maintenance chief or an armory chief. Being a brand new lance corporal hitting the fleet, ‘hey congratulations, you now have three million dollars of equipment underneath your name. Make sure that nothing explodes, if something breaks fix it, make sure everything is good.’ You need to be mature to handle all the responsibilities and the stress that comes with this job.”
Weapons, weapons handling, and weapon operations are fundamental within the Marine Corps. All Marines are riflemen, they all learn how to handle, clean and operate a rifle, but the small arms repair technicians will never be outmatched when it comes to their beloved weapons expertise.
“No one knows weapons like we do,” said Rhodes. “We are the subject matter expert when it comes to the weapons in the Marine Corps. Without our knowledge the Marine Corps would have to contract the Army or a civilian, but in my opinion, no one better than a Marine understands the severity of properly caring for the weapons that Marines use.”
With the small arms repair technicians having so much responsibility and knowledge, they also understand the safety aspect of weapons. The Marine Corps is a rugged branch of the military, with hard jobs, long hours, and many meticulous rules. In any MOS, there is one piece of advice that any Marine would give, but it holds most truth with the small arms repair technicians.
“The advice I have for new Marines would be that there are orders in place for a reason,” said Fairchild. “Safety is your priority, safety for the weapons and for the Marines operating them. If you have to correct a Marine, no matter the rank, do it. Don’t be afraid to enforce the orders. As a Marine, they will understand and respect you for it, even if they complain about it.”