ARABIAN GULF (August 8, 2015) -Whether they are deployed halfway around the world or docked in their homeports, Sailors aboard naval vessels must be on the alert at all times, always prepared to defend their ship with lethal force if necessary to protect lives and vital assets.
The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) ensures its security forces are ready by conducting shipboard weapons firing several times each month. At least once a week, Sailors aboard TR hear the announcement, “Stand clear of the flight deck and fantail while conducting crew-serve weapons shoot,” followed shortly by bursts of machine gun fire echoing around the ship.
“We have several different weapons we fire during our gun shoots,” said Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Christopher Thompson. “Our Gunner’s Mates train on everything we have: the M9 [service pistol], M16 [service rifle], and the M240B and M2 .50 caliber crew-serve weapons.”
Security personnel participate in the shoots as well, qualifying and familiarizing with the weapons they carry while on patrol.
“Security is the first line of defense for the ship,” said Master-at-Arms 1st Class Jesse Lang. “A lot of the people we get haven’t fired a weapon since boot camp, and some have never fired the M16 so it’s important to get them out there to fire these weapons so they know how to use them and what it feels like to actually fire them.”
Before taking part in any live fire exercises, Sailors attempting to qualify conduct dry-fire training where they practice manipulating the weapon without actually firing it.
Qualified personnel also participate in gun shoots in order to maintain familiarity with the weapons.
“Shooting involves a lot of muscle memory,” said Lang. “If you don’t practice, you’ll forget what works best for you.”
The Arabian Gulf is a relatively small but busy body of water and TR routinely encounters other vessels, or contacts. The ship will often set gun quarters to ensure TR has the right level of security in place while a contact is assessed. During those times, it is critical to have qualified and well-trained Sailors manning their gun stations.
“Gun quarters can be called away at any time,” said Thompson. “What we want is to have enough of a response team to man the guns 24/7 if we need to.”
Shortly after returning to the U.S. after deployment, TR is scheduled to conduct a crew swap with the aircraft carrier USS George Washington
(CVN 73), and more than one-third of TR’s Sailors will be moving to a new ship. Despite the large personnel turnover, TR has plans to ensure it has the right number of qualified Sailors.
“Our goal is to have at least one-third of the crew qualified before the crew swap,” said Chief Gunner’s Mate Semaj Jordan. “We’ll be losing a lot of people to the George Washington, so we’ll need to have enough people to take their place.”
Theodore Roosevelt is the flagship of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (TRCSG), which is composed of Carrier Strike Group 12, Carrier Air Wing 1, Destroyer Squadron 2 staff, the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60) and the guided-missile destroyers USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81), USS Farragut (DDG 90) and USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98).
Roosevelt is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, strike operations in Iraq and Syria as directed, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the region.
By Mass Communication Specialist Taylor L. Jackson, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Public
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