Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Across all aspects of my life, I’ve done my best, with what I’ve had at the time, to be ready to respond rapidly to life’s uncertainties and changes. It’s through training, and a mindset to be prepared, that we may flourish in moments of chaos, and ultimately say, “I’m still here.”
One of the scariest moments of my life was when I first became a Mortar Section Leader. The responsibility of this position is so great—in that moment, I quickly began to develop a deep respect for training, preparedness, and influential leadership traits and qualities. I was, in no way, the smartest Marine. However, no one was going to out-work me—they could only work as hard.
Most infantrymen think mortars stick some stakes in the ground, do some voodoo, fire rounds in the air, and they magically land on target. However, this is not the case. It takes total time and dedication to hone the craft of being a Mortarman. I consider myself a lucky man to have led some of the most brilliant and talented Mortarmen the United States Marine Corps has ever seen. This did not come over night. Instead, it was born through a rigorous devotion to mortar proficiency, tactics, and pride in self and section. We held ourselves to the highest standards regarding training and preparedness—we knew when 11’s called-for-fire, we had seconds to respond with highly lethal mortar-fire. During this time, The Marine Corps’ standard for a large mortar deflection/elevation change was to be completed in 60-seconds, and a small mortar deflection/elevation change in 35-seconds. By setting a goal to be the best mortar section in the Battalion, we constantly practiced mortar gun-drills and infantry tactics if we were not on the range. Through excellent coaching and mentorship at the team level, the mortar section was conducting large deflection/elevation changes in an average of 10-seconds and small deflection/elevation changes in an average of 7-seconds. As the gun line continuously pushed the envelope regarding time-to-target, the Fire Direction Center maintained overall preparedness through complex fire mission training (Coordinated Illum and SEADs), proper mortar emplacement (laying in and registration through refer-realignment procedures), and fail safe FDC equipment (plotting boards backing up LHMBCs and calibrating compasses with a Vector). We began to turn the 60mm mortar system into a sniper rifle—Steel on Steel became a normalcy.
One of the proudest moments of my life was seeing how the boys operated in Afghanistan and how all their time and dedication to training paid off. Whether firing mortars in combat, or taking it to the enemy as riflemen, a deep respect grew for the men in my charge—I love them. The level of preparedness was off the charts with these men. We had hundreds of pre-planned and on-call targets spun-up all over the AO. Every patrol had a 60mm mortar ready to rock in the hand-held, and tubes were set up conventionally from patrol bases tracking movement. To the enemy’s detriment, we were constantly ready, and we were constantly prepared.
A special shout out to the Mortarmen of 2/4 Echo Company: Y’all make me a better man, and I’m lucky to have sent it with y’all.