By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Wyatt L. Anthony, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Public Affairs
As the orange sun broke over the horizon, 30 Sailors from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) were gathered in the dimly lit hangar bay June 6 in preparation of the muzzle blast and smoke they were about to experience behind the power of a heavy machine gun.
Not many things equal the intensity of shooting a 110 pound, .50 caliber Browning machine gun, as it fires 500 rounds per minute at more than 2,600 feet per second, said Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Chris Thompson, a native of Pleasantview, Tenn., with Weapons Department’s G-2 division.
“Shooting the .50 cal isn’t something that’s easy to describe,” said Thompson. “It’s loud, it’s exciting and it’s a great rush.”
After the safety brief the Sailors made their way to the fantail of the ship. Once the Sailors arrived, the .50 cals were mounted and the ammunition belts unpacked.
One-by-one, Sailors filled the air with thunderous clasp and gun smoke as they took turns firing the .50 cal in short bursts.
Midshipman Cole Farris, a native of Raleigh, N.C., visiting an aircraft carrier for the first time as part of his college’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) senior cruise, fired the .50 cal for the first time.
“After first hearing the gun, I got a huge adrenaline rush,” said Farris. “I didn’t expect it to be that powerful, and I could definitely feel the power in every shot. It was amazing.”
Ships are most vulnerable when pulling into or leaving port. During these evolutions the .50 cals stand as the ships inner-most line of defense against surface threats.
“We’re the defense against anything small. If an enemy combatant comes in too close to take out with the [Rolling Airframe Missile System], then we’re the next line of defense,” said Thompson. “It’s our job to keep the ship safe. And to do that, we have to ensure that there are enough Sailors trained up on how to use the weaponry.”