PHILIPPINE SEA— The order to open fire is called and a steady staccato pounds the ears. The acrid smell of gunpowder fills the nose and before long, left standing in a field of spent brass are the ship’s steadfast defenders.
Gunner’s mates (GM) from Weapons Department is G-2 division stand by and are ready to protect the U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and her crew.
“We are ready to act as the ship’s first line of defense,” said Gunner’s Mate Seaman Jacob Scott, from Dunlap, Tennessee. “We have multiple layers of protection to keep our ship from harm, but when it’s time to fight back, we are always ready.”
G-2 division provides several mission-essential services to the ship and her crew.
“We operate the ship’s armory, run the arms and ammunition program and account for more than 200 guns,” said Scott. “We also conduct small-arms training at least once a week. We do this so we can be sure that whomever is going to be using our weapons knows exactly what they’re doing.”
According to Scott, GMs organize and conduct weapons training for other Sailors, such as Security Department personnel, so they can be knowledgeable and effective with weapons.
“We offer training programs such as dry-fire exercises, weapon familiarity and proficiency training,” said Gunner’s Mate Seaman Austin Perry, from Lincoln, Maine. “Potential participants need to ask permission from G-2 division office to attend a given class. If granted, they will be saved a spot on the next event that we do. During any event GMs will be standing by to provide advice and ensure safety procedures are followed.”
According to Perry, G-2’s arsenal contains a variety of weapons that range from an M9 pistol to an MK38 machine gun.
“We’re all about small arms,” said Perry. “We have about 10 different types of weapons like assault rifles, shotguns, machines gun — you name it. Whatever the situation is, there’s a perfect gun for it.”
With a focus on weaponry, a nine-month “A” school is required to ensure new GMs are ready to perform in the fleet.
“A GM is required to know how to use any gun safely and effectively,” said Perry. “We learn about all the guns they could ever use, from the biggest weapon to the smallest. We also need to know all weapons-handling procedures, maintenance and operation of our guns, as well as the hydraulic and electronic systems that compose larger weapons, like the 5-inch cannons. GMs have to be absolutely sure that at any time, anyone of us will be able to respond, and of course, shoot better than anyone else.”
“We are one of the first Navy rates,” said Chief Gunner’s Mate Edison Norford, G-2 division leading chief petty officer. “We started off as the people who fired the cannons on old ships of sail. We do the same thing today, just with better guns.”
Ronald Reagan and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.