top of page
  • Writer's pictureForce Recon Association

Strong Men Armed- Part III

Article by: Patrick A. Rogers

The Marine Corps 1st Force Reconnaissance Company

The following is the third part of a 3 part article spanning 4 issues of The Accurate Rifle. Part I : January 2000 Volume 3 Number 12 Part II: February 2001 Volume 4 Number 1 Part III Section 1: April 2001 Volume 4 Number 3 Part III Section 2: May 2001 Volume 4 Number 4 The Accurate Rifle 222 McKee Street Manchester CT 06040 Part III : Weapons and Equipment

Understand that equipment, when compared to the people who use it, is at the low end of the equation. The gear, especially the newer communications and surveillance equipment is high tech and very capable. But it still requires hard men to bring it within range of other hard men who would love to do nothing more than kill them.

Well-trained and motivated people will do better with mediocre equipment then mediocre people will do with the best gear in the world.

Keep this in mind when you read these pages.

The multiple missions tasked to Force require a wide variety of weapons and equipment. Many of the items in this article are mission specific, and a few are common to all missions, but in almost all scenarios, they are carried on the bodies of the members of the reconnaissance platoon. Weight is a major factor, and the Force adage is "If you can’t swim it, jump it, hump it or shoot it, you don’t need it". The increased stand off distance of the optical and communications equipment helps to ensure success in the deep battle.

Rifle 5.56x45mm, M16A2 (NSN 1005-01-128-9936)

The M16A2 rifle is the standard weapon for most of those assigned to the Company. Approximately 39 5/8" long, and weighing almost 9 pounds, the A2 is the standard rifle for those in the Marine Corps whose duties do not require them to be armed with a pistol.

The M16A2 came into the Marine Corps system in 1982 (though the big army fought tooth and nail against it, they eventually did adopt the A2 in 19861). Several modifications were made to transform the Al into the A2, including modifying the flash suppressor into a "compensator"; providing a square front sight post; modifying the delta ring; modifying the upper receiver to include strengthening in the area of the front attachment point and including a brass deflector; lengthening the buttstock by 5/8"; adding an easily adjustable rear sight, changing the handguard configuration from triangular to round; making the plastic furniture out of a more durable material; increasing the diameter of the barrel forward of the handguard, and adding a shelf on the pistol grip. The barrel twist was changed from 1/12 to 1/9 to reflect the adoption of the M885 ammunition.2

The A2 was designed primarily with Marine Corps input, specifically from Weapons Training Bn. Many of the improvements appear to more directly benefit the shooting teams rather than the grunts. Chief among these is a rear sight adjustable for windage and elevation, something more applicable to a rifle range than to usefulness in combat. Likewise the added weight at the muzzle end of the barrel. While it does make the rifle hang better, the only people who use the offhand position in combat are (soon to be) casualties.

And finally lengthening the stock to make it fit better in offhand is something else that benefits primarily the team shooters. Their 90-degree to the target offhand position makes sense of the longer butt stock. The proper fighting stance is better served with a shorter length of pull—perhaps around 12" or so.

The 3 shot burst was a compromise. HQMC did not want any automatic fire capability—Weapons Training Bn wisely did. The 3 shot burst is the result. While many will question the value of hand held full auto fire, it has its place in combat. The key of course is proper training, and not a mechanical device.

In 1982 we had an opportunity to give the grunt a more functional and easier to use weapon but instead settled for something less.

There are 168 M16A2 rifles in the Company.

Carbine, 5.56x45mm M4A1 (NSN 1005-01-383-0953)

The M4A1 Carbine Close Quarter Battle Weapon (CQBW) is the standard weapon for those in the reconnaissance platoons. The current Marine Corps wisdom is that the M4A1 Carbine is to supplement, rather than replace the M16A2 (just as the MP5N sub-caliber machine gun did) in the Force Reconnaissance Companies. This may soon change as the Marine Corps is considering replacing all M16A2’s in the Marine Corps with the M4IM4A1 Carbine or the M16A4. The impetus for this move is the growing trend of MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) worldwide.

The M4 program originated as an initiative by the government of Abu Dhabi in the mid 80’s. The OIC of (then) Firepower Branch, (then) Maj. Jack Muth, brought several examples back to Quantico and tested them extensively.

A recommendation was made that the M4 replace all of the pistols in the Infantry Bn. (much like the U.S. Carbine, Cal .30, Ml/M2 was supposed to do during WW2) as well as being used by reconnaissance community, ANGLICO and others.

Congressional interference killed that proposal, and it languished until 1994 when USSOCOM picked up the fumbled ball.

The M4A1 Carbine is selective fire (that is, full auto - only the M4 Carbine has the 3 shot burst), has a 4 position collapsible stock, is 33" long with the stock extended, 29" long with the stock retracted, and weighs 7.5 pounds. The barrel is 14.5" long. (All but a very few of the M4 carbines have a flat top receiver. All M4A1 ‘s have a flat top).3

The collapsible stock provides a degree of ergonomics not possible with the M16A2. As stated above, the 13 5/8" length of pull (LOP) on the A2 is too long for most people to acquire a good fighting stance. Add to that body armor, load bearing vests, or cold weather clothing, and the weapon is way far out in front of the shooter.

Many operators run with the Carbine stock back to the first position or completely closed. It provides for a more comfortable and efficient position.

The Company Carbines are equipped with the Special Operations Peculiar Modification (SOPMOD) Kit. This is slightly different from that issued to USSOCOM in content. The Company has three modifications to their Carbines that the USSOCOM kits do not. All of the M4A1 Carbines in the Company have the Norgon ambidextrous magazine catch; the DPMS ambidextrous selector switch and the Badger Ordnance extended charging handle latch.4

The Carbine has a Knight’s Armament Corporation (KAC) Rail Adopter System (RAS-P/N 98064) mounted. The RAS is a set of lightweight specially modified handguards that replace the standard M4 handguards. The RAS provides a secure mounting point for various mission related equipment by means of a series of MilStdl9l3 grooves. Each groove is marked with an address to assist in returning a particular item to the same location.

A vertical foregrip (also a KAC item- P/N 97098A) attaches to the RAS. It provides for more control during CQB engagements. It provides more control if it is attached to the center or rear of the RAS.

The muzzle compensator is a KAC replacement, so that the Quick Detachable (QD) Sound Suppressor can be mounted. The KAC QD Suppressor is 6.6" long and weighs 24 ounces. It reduces the noise of the fired round by a minimum of 28 decibels using ball ammunition. Sub sonic ammunition is also in the system and is more efficient in masking the noise of the shot, but will not cycle the action.

The Marine Corps does not issue a back up iron sight with their SOPMOD kit (though USSOCOM does). Instead, they rely on the issue removable carry handle. This is flawed thinking. If an optic goes down, the need to maintain continuity of fire still exists. To physically remove the optic, fish through your deuce gear to locate the carry handle, then attach this to the receiver—and do it while attempting to break contact and such, is patently absurd.

The Company therefore has the Knight’s Back Up hon Sight (BIS) on each carbine. Two types of sights are utilized. One is the fixed 300 yard sight (P/N 97082. The second is adjustable for elevation out to 600 yards (PIN 98474).

The Quick Attach/Detach M203 Grenade Launcher, M203 is a single shot, breech loading pump action grenade launcher that fires a family of 40mm low pressure grenades. These include High Explosive Dual Purpose, Multi-Projectile (similar to buckshot— I am underwhelmed with this round), Visible and IR Illumination, Smoke, CS and Practice (blue meanies).

The QDM2O3 mounts to the M4A1 Carbine by means of a special bracket. The notch in the forward part of the barrel is there specifically to accept the mounting bracket (not to make it a better bayonet fighting instrument).

This 40mm grenade launcher weighs 3 pounds and has a 9" barrel (vice the 15.5" barrel of a standard M203) to make it less bulky. Range and accuracy are not affected. It also has a modified leaf sight.

The QDM2O3 is a useful addition to the team. It can be used to mark targets, mask movement or discourage pursuit.

Usually the Team Leader and Assistant Team Leader will have the 203QD mounted. There are several types of optical sights available. Company SOP is to have an optical sight on all long guns.

The Aimpoint® CompM XD is not part of the Marine Corps SOPMOD Kit but was purchased to provide a more viable optic for all seasons.

The Aimpoint® (The M68 is the military version of the CompM XD) is a battery operated, parallax free, red dot sight. The reticle is 3 MOA, and is adjustable for intensity by means of a rheostat switch. Eye relief is unlimited, and it is waterproof to 66’.

The Aimpoint® is mounted to the upper receiver by means of a KAC mount. Two types are used, an offset (PIN 98512) and a straight type called a COMP (PIN 98073). The BIS is mounted on the upper receiver at the rear of the receiver. In the event the Aimpoint® sight goes Tango Uniform, at close range the operator can use the rear of the optic as a large ghost ring and focus on the front sight through the tube. If he has time, he can elevate the BIS and drive on.

Battery life is dependent on the intensity setting, but the Lithium 2L76 will run it from 250 to 1000 hours.This is an extremely effective sight for CQB and patrolling, especially in low light. Aimpoint® has an improved version of the Comp (called, appropriately enough, the CompM2) ready for release this spring. It is a sufficiently more rugged optic with greatly improved electronics. It draws less power when turned on to the lowest power setting than if the batteries are left on the shelf.

The Reflex Sight is a lightweight, non-magnifying day optical sight designed for close combat. It requires no batteries and is waterproof to 66’.

The Company has experienced some difficulties with this sight fogging in a cold/wet environment, and with acquiring the amber reticle in bright light.

The Trijicon ACOG Day Optical Sight (DOS) is a 4X telescope designed to provide enhanced identification and hit probability. It is rugged, and waterproof to 66’. It has a tritium reticle for low light use. The ACOG has an eye relief of approximately 1.5".

This is an excellent patrolling scope, but the 4X magnification makes it extremely difficult to use at CQB distances. It is equipped with a set of emergency iron sights on top of the tube. This requires moving your head off of the stock and trying to get a sight picture, not an easy thing to do.

This is a solid telescope, and in a pinch could probably be used as a hammer.

The AN/PVS-17 Mini Night Vision Sight (MNVS) is the primary night optic. It is an advanced Electro-Optical assembly that utilizes an Omni5 GEN 3 image tube. It weighs 2 pounds and is powered by a single "AA" battery, which will keep it running for 36 hours.

The MNVS has a 2.25X magnification (that can be boosted to 4.5X with an extender), and uses a 2 MOA red Dot reticle. Windage and elevation adjustments are 1/2 MOA. The PVS-17 is waterproof to 66’.

The AN/PEQ-2 Infrared Target Pointer/Illuminator/Aiming Laser has a straight beam of IR energy for aiming, and an adjustable focus IR beam for illuminating. Both sources can be used at the same time. It is powered by 2 "AA" batteries that give it continuous power for 10 hours. The PEQ-2 weighs 7.5 ounces, is 6.4" long, 2.8" wide, and 1.2" high. It is waterproof to 66’.

The illuminator is good to 600 meters. The pointer on high power has a range of 5000 meters, and 1000 meters on low power.

It is mounted on the RAS by means of a rail grabber, and while it may be mounted anyplace the preferred mounting is at 12 o’ clock.

The AN/PAC-4C is an IR aiming light, and while it is part of the kit, it has been replaced by the more capable PEQ-2.

The AN/PEQ-5 is a visible laser. It is difficult to imagine what this particular item is actually for (I am unconvinced of the tactical viability of a visible laser) and consequently is never used.

The Visible Light Illuminator (VLI) is a white light attached to the RAS by means of a rail grabber. It is powered by 3 DL123 lithium or 6 "AA" batteries, which will give an advertised run time of 50 minutes (though the "AA’s" are not as bright). Though it is waterproof to 66’, the first two versions experienced problems with switch corrosion. A third modification is now issued.

There are several combat slings used by the Company. Prior to the issuance of the SOPMOD Kit, slings were purchased from a commercial vendor. This particulaf group of slings deteriorated rapidly. When they failed, Wilderness Tactical Products supplied an emergency run of Giles Slings (over a Holiday weekend no less).

The sling now issued with the SOP-MOD kit appears to be a direct copy of the Giles Sling, with the exception of an added quick release.

The combat slings are the 3-point type, and provide a comfortable, safe and efficient method of carrying the Carbine and for transitioning to the secondary weapon. The SOPMOD Special Text (ST-23-3l-l) allows that the sling be worn over the weak side arm for CQB and the strong side arm for patrolling (If you use the issue sling, make sure you rigger tape the stock attachment loop!). Running it on your weak side is the better way to go (this is the opposite of the MPSN SOP, but it makes transitioning to your blaster much easier). An Otis cleaning kit is issued. It has a flexible cleaning rod and is convenient to carry, but a standard rod still needs to be carried to remove bore obstructions.

The CQBW is carried in a Soft Transport Case made by Eagle Industries. It can carry the carbine with the QD M203 attached and a magazine inserted.

There is a large pocket into which additional mission related equipment can be carried. The Soft Transport case provides protection for the Carbine and related equipment during movement.

While the SOPMOD Kit has a number of components, few are on the carbine at any given time (this is directly opposite the hero pictures in some of the gun rags, where everything is mounted). The Company has a system of configuration for their carbines. Common to all: Compensator for the QD Suppressor. Back Up Iron Sight. Optical sight (mission specific) Combat Sling. Vertical Fore Grip (Operator Preference) CQB: Aimpoint®/Reflex Suppressor (mission specific) VLI with JR cover Helmet mounted ANIPVS-l4 Weapon mounted Laser aiming device (AN/PEQ-2) Intermediate Range (patrolling): ACOG/Aimpoint®IReflexIANIPVS- 17 Suppressor (mission specific) Head Mounted ANIPVS- 14 Weapon mounted laser-aiming device (ANIPEQ-2) QDM2O3 (TL/ATL)

The M4A1 has several distinct advantages over the sub caliber MP5N. It offers a self defense capability out to the maximum practical effective range of the gun—250 meters or so. It can defeat most body armor, whereas the "5" guns couldn’t defeat any body armor. It is safer to use inside a crisis site, as the 5.56x45mm projectile is less likely to perforate a human body than the 9xl9mm is, and is less likely to penetrate common building material. The Carbine is much more ergonomic than the "5" gun, and can accept a multitude of mission essential equipment.

In reality, the M4A1 has completely replaced the M16A2 in the Force community with two exceptions; parades, and rifle re-qualification (though 1st Force Marines did use the M4A1 with excellent results, those running the re-qual program had conniptions, and quickly shut that down.)

The result of this duplicity is that the armory is overcrowded, and the individual Marine will have three weapons assigned to him, one of which (the M16A2) is almost never used. Ammunition used is the M855 Ball, the so-called "Green Tip". Frangible ammunition is available for use inside the shoot house (manufacturers vary— they are still trying to find the optimum round).

One additional accessory is available for the M4A1 and the MEU (SOC) Pistol. This is the Special Effects Small Arms Marking Systems (SESAMS) Kit, known to the outside world as SimunitionsTM kits. These kits permit the use of the operator’s weapons during force on force training.

Certain components of the gun are removed and replaced with the Sims specific parts. Barrels are painted blue for easy identification, and the kits cannot accept live 5.56x45rnm or .45 caliber ammunition.

The marking cartridge ammunition uses a modified 9mm case, and a plastic sabot containing colored detergent (either red or blue). It is powered by 1/3 grain of powder, ignited by a small pistol primer. It launches the 0.5- gram projectile out of the muzzle at about 550 fps.5 While maximum range is 80 yards, the maximum practical range is about 15 yards. There are 156 M4A1 Carbines and 28 M2O3QD 40mm Grenade launchers in the Company.

Colt Commando 5.56x45mm

The Company has several Colt Model 733 Commandos, commonly known as the CAR15. (Some in the inventory are other than the Model 733. These particular weapons were acquired from multiple sources, hence the lack of standardization). This carbine has an 11 1/2" standard barrel, collapsible stock, and is select fire—that is semi and full auto. It is 26" long with the stock retracted, and 30" long extended. It weighs approximately 6 pounds. Some have the RAS and can accept many of the SOPMOD Kit components. Some also have the fixed carry handle.

As with all other things in life, there is no free lunch. The CAR 15 offers some real advantages in that it is significantly easier to maneuver in confined spaces (such as in PSD), but the trade off is in diminished terminal ballistic effectiveness (due to the shorter barrel it may not be significantly better then 9xl9mm).6 Maximum practical effective range is about 150 yards.7

The CAR15’s are used primarily by the Company staff who, for some strange reason, don’t want to carry the M9 service pistol. Imagine that? There are 35 CAR1S’s in the Company.

Pistol, Caliber .45 MEU (SOC) (NSN100S-O1-370-7353)

While the standard USMC pistol is the M9, those in the operational platoons use the MEU (SOC) pistol. Based on a modified M1911 pistol, the MEU (SOC) has been in the Marine Corps since the Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) {MEU (SOC)} stoodupin 1985.8

The proven single action design in .45 caliber, and modified by the Precision Weapons Shop (PWS) at Quantico, is an excellent secondary weapon for the Marines in the Company. The frame is stripped GI, and after inspection the feed ramp is polished. The slide is Springfield Armory or Caspian, the barrel Bar-Sto, and the internal parts all commercial. A high visibility rear sight, (manufactured in house at PWS) and high visibility front sight are added. The pistol has an ambidextrous thumb safety, and a flat mainspring housing with a lanyard loop. The entire pistol is de-horned and Pachmayer stocks fitted. There is none of the checkering (so favored by artistes) on this pistol.

The Videcki trigger is adjusted to a pull of 3.5-5 pounds.

The pistol is issued with seven Wilson-Rogers magazines. A Sure Fire H1OR Light Module is mounted, but PWS feels that as this is not a fitted item, it may be causing barrel link breakage. The operators rightfully feel that they must have a light on the pistol, so this housing will remain until a better solution is in place.

During the course of a workup/ deployment, the operator will put a lot of rounds through his pistol. It is not uncommon for the pistols to come back with 80,000+ rounds fired. The pistol will be returned to the PWS at Quantico for a rebuild. Generally, all parts save the frame (which is a U.S. Government frame last manufactured in 1945) are discarded. The frame is inspected, and if within specs, rebuilt again. There are some frames that may have had as many as 500,000 rounds fired from them.

The OIC of the Precision Weapons Shop, CWO5 Ken Davis, is convinced (as are many others) that the 1911 is the only pistol that can stand up to this use. We certainly have the right gun for the right job.

If there is one thing wrong with this pistol it is the fact that there are not enough of them. Realistically, each operator should have two. One for training and another to go to war (of course, the same could be said for all of their weapons).

A product improved MEU (SOC) pistol is in the works. (The USSOCOM Mk23 ModO was briefly looked at. However the large size of this gun and other issues render it less than desirable as a secondary weapon). Though the basic pistol will remain the same, a new barrel and hardened drop in parts will replace those that must be hand fitted. This will permit maintenance to be performed at the company level rather than being evacuated.

Forward slide serrations and a memory bump grip safety will be added. The PWS is currently looking at a new light for the pistol. All of the new guns will have a MilStdl9l3 rail welded to the dust cover. Several new lights and Laser Aiming Modules (LAMS) are being evaluated at this time.

Originally, the Company used leather holsters from PWL but leather and water are a lot like oil and water. They now use Safariland Models 3004, 3005, or the newer 6004. Each operator has two of these Kydex holsters, one for the MEU (SOC) Pistol with the light, and one without. The pistol magazine pouches are the Eagle DMP-FB.

The Gem-Tech lanyard replaced the field expedient telephone cords previously used. This purpose built pistol lanyard has one thing that others don’t—it has a break-away feature. Shortly after they were issued, the CH 46E carrying 5th Pit. crashed into the sea off Pt. Loma, CA. The pistol carried by SSgt Mark Schmidt was dislodged from his holster, and caught on something in the rapidly sinking helo. The breakaway feature broke, and he was the last man to escape from the bird.

There are 60 MEU (SOC) pistols in the Company. They are authorized 110. They should have 300.

Pistol, Semiautomatic 9mm M9 (NSN 1005-01-118-2640)

The M9 is used by those not currently assigned to the operational platoons and whose duties preclude being armed with a rifle. Though some in the outside world speak well of this pistol, it is apparent that they do not subject it to the same use as the Marines do. Large in grip circumference and utilizing a double action trigger system, it is a difficult pistol to shoot, and even more so for those with small to average size hands. Coupled with the anemic 9xl9mm cartridge, poor service life and a horrible maintenance record, few have any confidence in this pistol.

There are 60 M9 pistols in the Company.

Pistol, Caliber .22, Automatic, High Standard, Model HD (NSN 1005-00- 908-2386)

One additional pistol is carried in the armory. This is the High Standard HD, a suppressed .22 caliber pistol whose origins were in the OSS of WW2.

A special purpose weapon, its effective suppressor permits quiet shots at very close range. While the effectiveness of the .22 Long Rifle round can be questioned, it is a useful weapon within its design parameters.

There are 10 HD pistols in the Company. Shotguns

Shotguns are used only for breaching. To that end, the Company utilizes Remington 870 and Mossberg 500 shotguns. Both types have a pistol grip (no butt stock), 20" barrel, and an extended magazine. A Sure Fire forend is attached. They are carried in a quiver on the operator’s back, or attached with a bungee cord to the LBV.

The Remington 870 is preferred, mainly for its durability. The Mossbergs, while possessing a more accessible safety, are also equipped with a weak trigger group, and this has reportedly caused it to be replaced Marine Corps wide twice.

The 20" barrel length is an anachronism. A better barrel length for these guns would be in the l2"-14" range. This would permit a smaller, handier, and significantly more efficient package (at the cost of a smaller magazine capacity).

The slide action shotguns are soon to be replaced with the new Joint Service Combat Shotgun. This is a Benelli M4 gas operated shotgun, and is being fielded now. It has a collapsible stock, ghost ring sights, and a MilStdl9l3 rail on the receiver to take optics. It is also equipped with an unnecessarily long 18.5" barrel.

There are within the Company 11 Remington Shotguns, 12 Gauge, Riot Type, Model 870 Mk l(NSN 1005-01-065-8989); 3 Mossberg M500 shotguns (NSN 1005-01-1032; and 2 Shotguns, 12 Gauge, Riot Type, M1200 (NSN 1005-00-921-5483).

Squad Automatic Weapon, 5.56x45mm M249 (para) (NSN 1005-01-127-7510)

The M249 (para) is the standard Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) of the Marine Corps. There is some dissatisfaction in the infantry units with the 249. Recent articles in professional publications cite doctrinal issues, stating that the M249 is more like a light machine gun than a Squad Automatic Weapon. They also take issue with weight, reliability, and the fact that it is an open bolt weapon. (There is a problem with first round feeding. In a bizarre twist, some cite the fact that it has no provision for a bayonet (!), therefore rendering it less effective in MOUT operations).

The SAW is 41" long, and weighs 15.07 pounds. It is fed from a 200 round disposable magazine, though in a pinch 30 round M16s will work (although not reliably). It has a cyclic rate of 750 RPM.

The Recon Team’s primary weapon is remaining undiscovered. When they turn into trigger pullers, the rules change, and not normally for the better. The SAW is a base of fire weapon, and is used to suppress enemy fire and cover the movement of friendly elements.

The Company also had some issues with the SAW, but of a kind different from the Grunts. As issued, the SAW cannot be jumped assembled. It had to be broken down and placed in a weapons bag. In the event that a team made contact on landing, the SAW would not be immediately available.

Another issue was the lack of optical sights, a force multiplier.

Consequently, the Company modified their M249’s to the Para SAW. Utilizing a kit from the manufacturer (Fabrique Nationale), the standard barrel is replaced with a 13.5" barrel, the fixed stock with a collapsible stock. The length of the gun with the stock collapsed is 28.98", and extended 35.16". It weighs 15.62 pounds.

The feed cover has a MilStd 1913 rail attached, and the forend is replaced with a Knight’s RAS. This accepts the vertical fore grip from the M4A1 SOPMOD kit as well as all other kit components. It also has a mount for the ANIPEQ-2 Infra red laser illuminator and aiming device.

The Para SAW has several optical sights available for use. These include the ACOG day optic, the M68 red dot sight, the large Elcan telescope, or the AN/PVS-17 night sight The M249 (para) can now be jumped, assembled, and attached to the jumper’s body.

The para modification makes for a significantly handier and more efficient unit, with no drawbacks. 1st Force is currently the only unit in the Marine Corps with this modified SAW. One Para SAW is carried per Recon Team. In the headquarters Team, the Corpsman will normally carry the SAW ("The best form of combat medicine is fire superiority"). There are 18 M249 (para) SAW’s in the Company.

Machine Gun, 7.62xSlmm M240G

The M240G is a variation of the Belgian MAG GPMG. In production since 1958, and in service with at least 80 countries, it is a gas operated belt fed machine gun, whose cyclic rate is approximately 750 rpm.

The Marine Corps originally fielded the M240/ M240E1 as coaxial or pintle mounted machine guns for tanks or light armored vehicles (LAV’s).

The Marine Corps was extremely dissatisfied with the M60 series guns, and Desert Shield/Storm provided the catalyst for change. The Marine Corps received a large number of M240’s from Army, and then acquired Infantry Modification Kits to convert them to the GPMG configuration.

The 240Golf has a feed cover modified with a MilStd 1913 rail. The Elcan telescope is normally mounted, though the AN/PVS-17 can be for night use. It is 47.5" long, and though slightly heavier than the M60 (at 24.2 pounds), it is significantly more reliable then the M60. The 240Golf is normally mounted on the platoon’s Improved Fast Attack Vehicle (IFAV). There are 14 M240G GPMG’s in the Company.

Grenade Launcher, 40MM M79 (NSN1010-00-1382)

The M79 still exists. Introduced into the system in 1961, the old Bloop Tube is a single shot, break open 40 mm grenade launcher. It is 30" long and weighs about 6 pounds, and has a folding leaf type sight. Max effective range for point targets is lSOm, and for area targets about 350m.

The M79 is easier to shoot then the M203QD attached to the M4A1, but of course the drawback is having to carry a second gun. Consequently the Blooper is used only for special missions.

There are 19 M79’s in the Company. Sub Machine Gun, 9xl9mm MP5N (NSN 1005-01-360-7146)

The MP5N smg was replaced by the M4A1 Carbine in 1998. Formerly used by the Company for their Direct Action (DA) missions, it was incapable of efficiently delivering fire past 50 yards (efficiency here being terminal ballistics). Coupled with significant maintenance and support issues, the MP5 was not a good choice for Marine Corps operations.

The MP5 was once touted to be the "ultimate CQB weapon" because at the time it was introduced it was "known" that the 556x45mm round would over-penetrate in that environment. Hindsight is 20/20, and the fact of the matter is that the 9x 19mm round has some serious issues that render it less then useful for CQB.9 The hard cold fact of life is that the MP5 is a sub caliber weapon. It fires a pistol cartridge, and no pistol cartridge is a reliable fight stopper.

The MP5N weighs 7.5 pounds, is 26" long with the stock extended, and 19" long with it retracted. It is fed from a 30 round magazine, and has a cyclic rate of 800 rpm. The Company still has a few (15) MP5N’s in the inventory, primarily for the Personal Security Detail (PSD) missions.

Rifle, Sniper 7.62x51mm M40A1 (NSN 1005-01-035-1674)

The M40A1 Sniper Rifle has been the standard since 1976 (though the Unertl Marine telescope did not appear until 1980).

The M40A1 is 44 inches long, and weighs approximately 15 pounds. It is bedded in a McMillan General Purpose Hunting (HTMG) stock. The barrel (by various makers over the years) is 6 groove, 1/12 twist, and 24" long. The Remington aluminum trigger guard is replaced with a modified Winchester M70 steel unit.

The optic/rings/mount interface has always been something that caused pain and discontent. The PWS uses an Unertl base with integral rings. A lug on the base is mated to the receiver clip slot, making for a rigid mount. Sufficient when it was designed, this mount cannot accept the new generation of night vision optics (The older ANIPVS-9 is an add on NVD, attaching to the top of the Unertl. Its usefulness has passed since the introduction of the ANIPVS- 10 day! night optic for the 7.62x5 1mm weapons, and the ANIPVS-l2.2 for the M82A3).

The M40A1 is reaching the end of it’s service life, and a replacement is now in the prototype stage. The Marine Corps is preparing to field a new and very capable sniper rifle, the M40A3. Like its predecessor, the A3 will be built by the wizards at the Precision Weapons Shop in Quantico. One big change is the way that optics will be mounted. Gone forever are the Unertl mount/rings, it being replaced with a MilStdl9l3 rail (the rock solid rings and rail, as well as the trigger guard are by D.D. Ross).

The Marine Corps has a long and happy relationship with the McMillan family of rifle stocks and the A3 will have a McMillan A4 stock.

The M40A1 is arguably the best sniper rifle used by the military, but is at the end of its service life. The M40A3 will be a welcome replacement. Ammunition used is the excellent M118LR (DODTCAAI1). There are 10 M40A1 Sniper Rifles in the Company.

Special Application Scoped Rifle, 12.7x99mm M82A3 (NSN 1005-01-347-4857)

M82A3 SASR is a semi-automatic, air-cooled, magazine fed rifle. The M82A3 weighs 37.5 pounds with ammo, optics and carry handle and is 56.6" long. It is fed from a 10 round magazine, and is equipped with an Unertl Marine Sniper Scope, modified with the .50 caliber ballistic cam.

The M82A3 differs from the A2 in that it has a lighter barrel and bolt, and a greatly improved muzzle break. The MilStd 1913 rail is all steel, 19" long, and bolted to the receiver. The bipod is improved, and has spiked feet to provide added stability when firing. The A3 has a rail grabber carry handle.

The Precision Weapons Shop is developing a rail grabber rear sight. As of now, there is no back up iron sight.

The AN/PVS-12.2 Day/Night Sniper Sight is an option for this rifle. Similar in appearance to the PVS-10 (the 7.62x51mm version), the PVS-12.2 has 16X magnification, a Gen 3 image tube, and a 3" of eye relief. It weighs 5.5 pounds.

Windage adjustment is ½ MOA per click, while elevation is 1 MOA per click. The reticle is standard Mil-Dot.

The PVS-12.2 is powered by 2 "AA" batteries.

Ammunition is the Norwegian Raufoss ( the DODIC is A606).

The rifle comes packed in a Pelican Case (which is watertight and airtight, and has a pressure relief valve. These are great cases. I use a version of this as my suitcase. It is the only way I have found to prevent the airline folks from entering and damaging my personal effects). The kit also contains one spare 10 round magazine and assorted cleaning equipment.

The SASR is designed to provide snipers with a long range anti-material weapon. Maximum effective range against material type targets is 1800 meters.

While the primary use of this weapon is to defeat material type targets (such as aircraft, vehicles10, radar etc.), it may also be used against personnel if necessary. The old wives tale concerning the prohibition of this has been passed down for generations by well meaning but ill informed people. The M82A3 may represent a degree of overkill, but I can verify that the 12.7X99mm round is absolutely devastating when used against a human target.

There are 5 SASR’s in the Company.

Optical Sights

Optical sights are provided for all of the shoulder fired weapons in the Company, with the exception of the breaching shotguns. There are some who believe that optical sights are too fragile for military use, and that battery powered optics are an invitation to failure. That optical sights may be more fragile then iron sights is correct. The question is, how much more fragile? And, remembering that there is no free lunch; does the fear of failure outweigh the more rapid target acquisition and engagement that occurs with optical sights?

With optical sights, the degree of certainty with which first round hits can be attained is drastically improved. Acquiring the target, the first and possibly the most difficult part of the engagement process is made significantly easier. This is true in CQB, Close Range Engagement, and engagement out to the effective range of the weapon.

As for batteryphobia (new word — I just made it up). Well, the battery in the Aimpoint ® sight is good for 250 hours at the full power setting — perhaps 3 times as long at low power. Now, consider that you have batteries in your car, helo or fixed wing platform. Batteries in your radio. Batteries in your wrist watch. Batteries in your laser rangefinder or Ground Commanders Pointer. Batteries in your flashlight. You know, we’ve managed to get along for quite a while with old technology batteries operating less sophisticated equipment. Do they ever run out? Sure, that’s why we bring spares. Does the electrical equipment in your house or car or plane ever go TU? Sure does.

There are no absolutes in this world. If your paranoia overrides your willingness to get quicker first round hits at all distances in diminished or bright light, have at it. The line for the Flat Earth Society starts on the left.


For green side missions, the standard camouflage utility uniform is worn. Rank and name tapes/Branch of Service tapes are usually not attached. While it drives many outside of the reconnaissance community crazy, the utilities are often modified with pockets on each sleeve. This is a practical modification, and extremely useful to those who have to hump in the bush.

Boots are typically jungle boots. The new (and heavier) Gore-Tex boots are sometimes used, but the ludicrously overpriced Adidas boots almost never are.

Some experimental brown boots fielded by NATICK from several makers are being evaluated by the Company. It is nice to see that someone is thinking out of the box, and we may be getting away from target indicator black.

Finally, a bush cover tops it all off. Some operators cut the brim down to 2" or so, while others stay with the wide brim. The cover is safety pinned by the chin strap to the utility jacket.

The Marine Corps is moving along with plans to introduce a new Marine Corps unique utility uniform. Two cammie patterns are being considered, one being Tiger Stripes and the other a very effective computer generated pattern (that is similar to an old German style) called the Marine Pattern. They solicited input from the troops as to what the users would like to see, and pockets on the sleeves were one of the big items favored.

Now, if only we can convince them to go back to an all cotton rip stop uniform and away from rear area pretty poly-cotton blended uniforms so much favored by the SMPO." (Cotton is cooler and dries faster. The blends however look "sharper" for those who spend all of their time in the office).

For black side missions, the standard uniform is the Nomex Assault Suit or the CWU-27/P Nomex Flight Suit. The Assault Suit is configured more to the operator than aircrew, and pockets and so forth are more readily accessible.. Explosive breaching is a big part of CQB, and the Nomex uniform (supplemented with GSIFRP-2 flight gloves and a balaclava) is a safety issue.

Eye protection is generally Oakley of some type, supplemented with goggles from Bolle, Oakley and Gen-Tex. Eventually, some manufacturer will come up with the perfect goggle, but it does not yet exist.

For "green side" missions, each Marine normally carries an M4A1 Carbine. The carbines carried by the Team Leader and Assistant Team Leader will usually have an M2O3QD attached.

One Marine in each team will carry the M249 (para) Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW). In the Headquarters Team, the Corpsman will normally carry the SAW. Standard load for each Marine is thirteen (13) 30 round mags for the M4A1, and three (3) 200 round magazines for the M249 (para).

As noted, remaining undiscovered is the team’s primary method of survival. Carrying more batteries is preferred over carrying more ammo.

For DA missions, each Marine carries an M4A1 Carbine and a MEU (SOC) pistol. Each Marine will also carry some other type of mission essential equipment such as a breaching shotgun, Halligan tool, torch, breaching charge and so forth.

Standard load for the DA mission is seven (7) mags for the M4A 1, and seven (7) for the MEU (SOC) pistol.


There is no "official Force Recon Knife" (or watch or booties or anything else for that matter — don’t bother searching out the wanna’ be catalogs, there won’t be any in there). The standard issue knife is the MK 2 "Ka-Bar", though it is now a contract knife made by Ontario and others. Having been in the system since 1943, it is a sturdy and inexpensive knife, 12" overall, with a 7" blade. It is exactly the same knife that is issued to every Marine not armed with a rifle.

The issue dive knife is the Ontario made Mk3 Mod 0, with the attached MK13 MOD 0, Signal, Smoke and Illumination, Marine. The stainless blade is 6", and overall length is 11". Knives are an emotional issue for most people, but in the Company the knife is a tool, just as a Leatherman, IFAV, or MC5 Free Fall Parachute are tools. Many of the operators have spent their hard earned dollars to purchase tools that may one day be the difference between surviving or dying. It is therefore not unusual to see Gerber’s, SOG’s, Randall’s, Mission MPK and other privately purchased knives on the trouser belts of these operators. One extremely good knife maker is located close by Camp Pendelton. Strider Knives is run by former military guys who know what is needed and more importantly, know how to do it. While their knives are made one at a time, you will find no flash, no fantasy items, just solid, strong and very useful tools.

I have one of their SA model knives. A small knife, with a blade of 2.75" and an overall length of 7.25", this knife is attached to the leg shroud of my 6004 holster. It is a strong knife, and very handy for those million and one things that you need a knife for. It is the best knife that I have ever owned.

Strider Knives has a strong connection to the military community. If you are active duty enlisted, they will knock 20% off the cost of the knife.

Perhaps a better indicator of their integrity is this. Each year the Company has recognized a Team Leader who has performed far and above what is usual — not an easy feat in a testosterone-laden world of hairy chested steel-bellied commandos. With the loss of five of our brothers, it was decided that this honor would be expanded to include an Assistant Team Leader, Radio Operator, Scout and Corpsmen of the year.

For 1999, the awards went to SSgt Vincent Sabasteanski, SSgt David Galloway, SSgt Jeffery Starling, Cpl Mark Baca, and HMI Jay Asis. They were honored not because they were killed, but rather for what they accomplished in the Company.

Strider Knives asked if they could donate a knife to each of the families, a very generous offer that was readily accepted. In July, each family received an engraved BG knife, mounted in a beautiful presentation case.

Full Spectrum Battle Equipment (FSBE)

Until April of 2000, the standard black side Load Bearing Vest (LBV)/body armor was the Close Quarter Battle Equipment Assault Vest made by Point Blank. This vest was considered by some to be state of the art when adopted circa 1996, but it was heavy (14 pounds without the ceramic plates, and 28 pounds with) and bulky. Additionally, the carrier, LBV and accessory pockets were made of pack cloth instead of the more durable cordura.

The modular load bearing vest was poorly designed. The stock pad was actually positioned down around the shooters pecs — way too low for practical use. The pouches (and the carrier) tore easily, especially the pockets where the ceramic plates were held. Many vests had copious quantities of that old stand by, riggers tape, vainly trying to hold the mess together. The ceramic plates were fragile, in a very non-fragile environment, and eventually many lost all structural integrity.

The magazine pockets, originally designed for MPS mags, did not hold the M4 mags well. It was a two man endeavor to don, and took a long time to remove. Some operators choose to privately purchase LBV’s made by Eagle and others in lieu of the deficient CQBE LBV.

In 1996, the CQCE was noted in a Fleet Operational Needs Statement (FONS), citing its deficiencies in the amphibious environment and overall inefficiency for use in general. In short, the Assault Vest was a disaster, and a replacement was desperately needed. Requests were made for a replacement vest, (another EONS was submitted in mid 1999) but the priority was low. Several people in Marine Corps Systems Command, Natick, and others started work on a system that would replace the CQBE.

On 09Dec99 a CH46E carrying 5th platoon crashed into the Pacific while conducting VBSS off San Diego. Seven were killed, including five from 5th Platoon. Only one of the surviving Marines was able to remove his equipment while trapped in the sinking helo. All of the other survivors swam to the surface with their equipment on — a mighty feat that others of less physical and mental strength might not have been able to do.

The priority to replace the outdated CQCE then became an Urgent Requirement. Fortunately, a very astute Program Officer (and Ranger) Jon Laplume, from the Soldier System Center at Natick, MA, carried the ball. Within 110 days, he (along with 1st Sgt Clark, 2nd Force, GySgt Elder, 5th Force, SSgt Daley, 1St Force, and Capt. Hoffman and others from MARCORSYSCOM) developed a vest, had it produced, and trained and equipped all user units with the Full Spectrum Battle Equipment (FSBE) system.

This can be rightly construed as being a miracle in the acquisition process.

The protective vest (known as the Amphibious Assault Vest and made by Point Blank) is designed to be used with the Small Arms Protective Insert (SAPI). (The SAPI protects against 3 rounds of 7.62X51 M80 ball at the muzzle.) The AAV weighs approximately 6.5 pounds in size medium, and the SAPI an additional 3.5 pounds each, making the FSBE about 1/2 the weight of the old CQCE. The vest is comfortable and allows greater mobility for the operator.

It is designed to accept load bearing devices on top of it (that is, the Ranger Assault Carrying Kit, or RACK — but this is not likely as it would negate the single point release), or mission related pouches attached directly to it.

What makes the FSBE unique is that it is neutrally buoyant, something that should have been mandatory long ago for those involved in amphibious operations.

With input from GySgt Dennis Walsh in the Company Paraloft, the design was modified to include a single point release system, similar to the very familiar cut away system for all of free fall Marines. Included in the FSBE Kit is the SRU-40 HABD (Helicopter Aircrew Breathing Device). This 1.5 cu. ft. cylinder will provide approximately 1-2 minutes of air. (An initiative by the Company has identified a larger volume bottle with a longer hose. This item is being reviewed now). Adding another layer of protection is the LPU-34/P Recon Version Type 2 flotation collar, providing 68-72 pounds of positive buoyancy.

Natick Equipment Specialist Rick Elder (and another sharp Ranger), provided a helmet from a Special Operations Forces Personal Equipment Advanced Requirement (SPEAR), the MICH (Modular Integrated Communication Helmet). This helmet has 11% less area coverage (meaning that you have improved sensory awareness, which includes an unobstructed field of view and ambient hearing capabilities). It is 1.2 pounds lighter then the PASGT helmet, and offers greatly improved ballistic protection.

As its name implies, it come with enhanced hearing protection that is compatible with the comm systems used by the Company (specifically the new MBITR). The helmet is comfortable, due to a top shelf pad system. (SSgt Archer claims that wearing this helmet is "Like having sex with your head"). The reason for this comfort is the vastly improved four point suspension system. For those of you who use the helmet mounted AN/PVS-14, you understand completely the term "cranial headache" that occurs when it is attached to the PASOT helmet. The MICH makes this much less an issue. And, it floats.

There is no free lunch. Plates that provide protection against higher threat levels are available, but they weigh more. The added weight means less buoyancy. There is a compromise at work here, but the issue to remember is that this system is a quantum leap over the CQCE, and it is available now.

For green side missions, the Operators do not wear a protective vest. The LBV’s vary from the standard Individual Tactical Load Bearing Vest, H-harness suspenders with war belt, or privately purchased LBV’s. The helmet is replaced with the time honored and more practical bush cover.

The large ALICE pack is the standard ruck in the Company. Large, and capable of carrying the mission essential gear, it is also uncomfortable. Many of the operators have modified their rucks with aftermarket shoulder straps and padding, and additional pockets. To fill the space between nothing and everything, the Company purchased the excellent Eagle 3 Day Airborne Pack for all members. This pack has about 3120 cu. in. available. (Previously several had made private purchases of a similar appearing pack, but the low quality of off shore manufacturing became readily apparent.) Like all else that John Carver makes, this pack is well designed, comfortable, and virtually indestructible.

Motor Vehicles

The platoon takes several vehicles with them on deployment. The ubiquitous M998 HMMWV, better known as the Hummer, is brought as a logistics support vehicle, but for reconnaissance they use the Improved Fast Attack Vehicle (IFAV).

Previously the Company operated a fleet of Chenowth Fast Attack Vehicles (FAV). A modification of a cross country racing vehicle, the 2 wheel drive FAV had a number of issues going against it. Chief among these was that it possessed a gasoline powered engine (the flammability of gasoline created some difficulty for shipboard transportation) and it was a maintenance nightmare.

Though fun to drive, it lacked payload, capacity and power, and it will not be missed. In 2000, the Marine Corps adopted the IFAV; a 4x4 diesel engined Mercedes Benz commercially known as the 290 GDT. This is a proven commercial and military success, and is in service with a number of countries.

The IFAV is quieter and much more comfortable to ride in, and this equals increased human efficiency over a longer period of time.

The word "Attack" is probably a misnomer. In truth it is a mobility platform and not a fighting vehicle. What holds for Reconnaissance Teams on foot is true for wheeled Reconnaissance Teams if they are discovered, the rules have changed. The weapons the IFAV carry are for defensive purpose only — to assist in breaking contact. The IFAV is an alternative to walking.

The vehicle is crewed by three, and can mount a Caliber .50, HBM2, a Mkl9 40mm grenade launcher, or a 7 .62x51mm M240G. Combat Rubber Reconnaissance Craft (CCRC)

The CCRC is a small inflatable rubber boat used for raid, reconnaissance and riverine missions. It is 15.4’ long, 6.2 wide, and 2.5’ high. It weighs 265 pounds, and is powered by a 55 HP OMC’ engine — that will be replaced with redesigned 55 hp OMC Pump Jet engine. This is designed by the same folks who do propulsion systems for submarines.

For submarine operations where stowage is a problem, there is a prop driven OMC 35Hp. The CCRC can carry up to 6 men.

Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat

The RHIB is an 8 meter boat powered by a 300 HP Volvo diesel engine, turning counter rotating props and capable of moving it at 25 knots. It is equipped with radar, VHF, UHF, HF and SATCOM radios.

The Company acquired four RHIBs from Naval Special Warfare Group, who replaced them with a larger and more capable RHIB. 1St Force uses them to support local operations only — they are not deplorable.

Underwater Breathing Apparatus (UBA)

The primary Underwater Breathing Apparatus is the MK 25 Mod 2 Draegar LAR V. This Norwegian made unit is 24" long, 18" wide, 10" high, and weighs 27 pounds. It will provide approximately 240 minutes of oxygen, situational dependent on many factors.

Being a closed circuit system, the Draegar prevents any exhaust bubbles from surfacing, making it more difficult for an enemy to visually acquire the team. It is designed for combat diver operations.

The Company does have open circuit diving equipment, but it is used to administratively support the closed circuit operations.

Parachute Ops

MC-5 Static Line/Free — Fall Ram Air Parachute System

The MC-5 Parachute is a Marine Corps unique system, and can be configured for static line or Military Free Fall (MFF) depending on mission requirements. Both the main and reserve parachute are identical 7-cell, 370 sq.ft. canopies made of F-111 ripstop nylon in a light blue/ gray color.

MC-1C Low Level Static Line Parachute

The LLS/L canopy is the MC-1C is a 35’ parabolic canopy, a modified T-10 parachute, variations of which have been around for several decades. Now made out of Type 1 low Porosity ripstop, it has a rate of descent of approximately 14-18 fps. The-1C has a TU modification in order to give it some steering capability. It is worn in conjunction with the T- 10 reserve, a 24’ flat circular canopy.

GenTex HGU-55/P HALO Helmet

The HGU-55/P is the standard parachutist helmet. Lightweight, it utilizes either a snap down visor or goggles to’ protect the jumper’s eyes during free fall. The MBU-12P pressure demand oxygen mask is attached to the helmet for high altitude operations. The helmet has a communication system added so that team members can talk with each other while under the canopy.

Parachutist Individual Equipment Kit (PIEK)

This provides protection for the jumper from the environment. It includes a Gore-Tex jumpsuit, jumpsuit liner, gloves, altimeter, overboots and other related equipment.

Jumpers Kit Bag

The JKB is another Eagle Industries designed and produced item that enhances parachutist safety. It is a large bag that holds the operator’s rucksack, load bearing vest and other assorted equipment. Thus enclosed, it prevents it prevents any loose items with interfering with the stable body position or the parachute deployment sequence. It has several quick access pockets for mission specific gear.

The Jumpers Kit Bag replaced the inefficient SARPELS (Single Action Release Personal Equipment Lowering System)


In order to successfully complete its mission and considering the dynamics in the deep battle, a Reconnaissance Team has to be able to observe and report on enemy activity in real or near real time. Because of the nature of this business and the distances involved, the Company has a sophisticated communications suite.


The newest radio coming into the system is the Racal Multiband Inter/Intra Team Radio (MBITR). This small (8.4" L x 2.6" W x 1.5" D) hand held individual tactical radio is AMJ FM voice or data, VHF or UHF (continuous coverage from 30-512 MHz) and is waterproof to 66’. The radio has imbedded crypto capability and because of the beacon is also a Personal Survival radio. When coupled with the AN/PSN-11 GPS, allows digital transmission of the operators location when the radio is keyed.

This radio is only slightly larger then a Sabre, and not that much more expensive. The MBITR is compatible with the MICH helmet, and can talk to most of the other radios in the community.

The pouch issued with the MBITR did not meet the requirements of the Company. The Comm Section contacted Eagle Industries, and with their input John Carver once more came to the rescue with a radio pouch that does.

This is a very capable radio, and one will be issued to each operator.


The multi band 117 operates near simultaneously in VHF AM and FM, UHF AM, and UHF DAMA SATCOM. (Demand Assigned Multiple Access —this allows several hundred users to share one narrowband SATCOM channel based on need or demand). It is voice/ data and has embedded crypto, SATCOM and ECCM capabilities.

This is a backpack radio, but has a removable keypad so that the RTO can control the radio’s parameters while it is on his back. The radio weighs 15.9 pounds with batteries and is 3.2" H x 10.5’ W x 13.5" D. There is a GPS interface capability embedded. When the operator keys the handset, it will give his location and station ID. There will usually be one 117 Foxtrot per Recon Team.

AN/PRC 138 (V2 ICOM)

High Frequency radios are receiving renewed interest. Once considered unreliable, new technology has made them feasible.

While SATCOM is usually a first choice for long range comm, heavy demand by higher echelons and limited channel availability may mean that a reconnaissance team can not make contact with another station. VHF is primarily Line of Sight (LOS) and therefore limited in range. High power VHF uses a lot of power, generates an enormous EM signature, and can be easily found even with frequency hopping. Additionally, VHF doesn’t support doctrine. The Force Reconnaissance Teams are used in the deep battle, well outside of VHF range. Dedicated airborne/ground relay platforms may not be available to pass on VHF shots, so HF is the only viable means of communication.

The 138 is the primary HF radio in the Company. It is a lightweight (8.9 pounds without batteries) backpack radio that provides HF/SSB and VHF-FM, has ALE (Automatic Link Establishment) and LQA (Link Quality Analysis — they analyze and select the best frequency for HF transmissions), is voice, data, digital voice and encryption. One PRC-138 is carried per team.

The mix of radios provides the team with multi band/full spectrum capability.

The improvements in technology for both radios and batteries have an immediate benefit for the operators. The radios are more capable, and all have embedded crypto. This means that they no longer have to carry a separate KY57/ KY99 with their batteries, and the new radios require fewer batteries that give longer life. The result is that for a deep reconnaissance mission, the weight savings in batteries and equipment may total 80 pounds.


The standard Marine Corps Observation Telescope is the M49. Weighing 2.75 pounds, and 13.5" long, this 20X telescope has been around for decades. The Company was not satisfied with the optical resolution, and needed something that could interface with the various imagery assets available.

The Company tested, then acquired a number of Kowa TSN-822 telescopes. Purchased with a 20X-60X zoom eyepiece, a photo attachment adopter, a camera mount and a protective cordura cover, this package costs only $255.00 more than the M49.

Though slightly heavier (at 3.25 pounds) and longer (17"), the Kowa offers a significant improvement over the elderly M49. It has the ability to interface with the AN/PVS-17, and will interface with various cameras and the Man Pack Secondary Imagery Dissemination System (MPSIDS).


The MPSIDS consists of a base station (a laptop, printer and assorted cables) and 3 outstations (Palmtop 586 computer, digital camera, lenses, cables etc.). It can be interfaced with most radio systems.

The team can shoot pictures of something of interest, send it back to the Reconnaissance Operations Center via tactical satellite radio or HF, and print out hard copies in near real time. Images can be annotated in the field, decreasing the chance of misinterpretation of conventional reporting.

This is not a new system, but it is new to the Marine Corps.


The new night vision binocular is the Nightstar from DRS Technologies. This 3.5 pound, 3X bino has a Gen 3 filmless, gateless image intensifier with a laser rangefinder, laser pointer, electric flux gate compass, an electric inclinometer and RS 232 interface.

The laser ranging is from 20-2000 meters. The laser pointer is also viable out to 2000 meters. The RS 232 Interface can transfer data to GPS and SINGARS radio. Its target bank can hold up to 10 targets. It operates on six "AA" batteries that are good for 36 hours of continuous operation, including 200 measurements.

The follow on, due out in early 2001, GEN 4 Omni 5 will have a 7X extender. When the operator ranges out on a target, it will also give the GPS location of the target, store it, and via the RS232 interface uplink it to another user. This means that targeting information can be transmitted to the appropriate agency for force fires.

M2120 SOPHIE Long Range Thermal Imager

This is another new tool for the Company. The SOPHIE is a lightweight (5.3 pounds) advanced second generation thermal camera. The detector resolution and high definition liquid crystal display allow images to match day-time television. The detector is cooled to operating temperature in about 5 minutes. This is a very capable unit. We were able to acquire a large radio transmission tower at night at 7km, with enough clarity to sketch it.

AN/PEQ-1A SOFLAM (Special Operations Forces Laser Marker)

The SOFLAM is a lightweight, day/ night compact, man portable laser target designation and rangefinder. It is capable of designating out to 5 kilometres, and ranging out to 10 km. It has a lox optic, and can mount the ANIPVS- 13 Laser Marker Night Vision Sight.

The unit itself weighs 12 pounds. With batteries, tripod and ANIPVS- 13 it is about 34 pounds.

The PVS-13 is a companion, image intensified night sight for the SOFLAM. Using it assures that the designator is operating and pointing exactly at the target. It has 6X magnification, weighs 4.2 pounds, and operates for 40 hours on 2 "AA" batteries.

The SOFLAM is an interim item, purchased in limited numbers to replace the AN/PAQ-3 MULE (Modular Universal Laser Equipment). The MULE itself was a quick acquisition to place a laser designator in the hands of the troops right then (1983-88). Although advertised as two-man portable, the system weighed 108 pounds making it difficult to move.

The Company initially used an LPL30 Laser Target Designator for hand held use. It was replaced by the more capable Commanders Ground Pointer and the AN/PEQ-4 Handheld Laser Designator/ Illuminator.

Powered by 2 "AA" batteries, the PEQ-4 can designate out to 6.2 nautical miles.


The standard GPS is the AN/PSN- 11 Precision Lightweight GPS Receiver (PLGR). Introduced in the early 90’s, the plugger has selective availability! anti spoofing and anti jam capability. It is a 5 channel receiver, and is capable of Precision Code (P) and Y Code (encrypted P Code) reception. Though very capable, the plugger is relatively large and heavy (2.75 pounds) and is scheduled to be replaced with the Defense Advanced GPS Receiver (DAGR).

In the interim there are not as many pluggers available as required. The Company therefore has provided each operator in the Company with a Garmin Model 12 commercial GPS to supplement the plugger. With GPS Control recently setting the Selective Availability error to zero, commercial receivers are now as precise as military receivers. However, DoD retains the ability to selectively deny GPS signals on a regional basis. This means that commercial receivers regionally may have their signal degraded, and may be subject to spoofing/jamming.

This is acceptable. Normally one plugger is available per team. The primary method of navigation is still map and compass, and any GPS is utilized to supplement rather then supersede that. The plan is that the Garmin 12’s will be operated for two years. At that time a new commercial GPS will be evaluated and then acquired.

The Garmin GPS is carried in a pouch made by Eagle Industries. Additionally, SSgt Matt Johnson of 3rd Platoon makes a really neat arm pouch (as well as a bunch of other good tactical equipment) that works well for parachute ops as well as patrolling.

All of the high tech equipment listed above is not in the inventory to impress visitors. It gives the reconnaissance teams the ability to observe from a greater distance. This increased stand off lessens the chance of compromise, and consequently improves the survivability of the team. It enables the team to report the information back in real or near real time and this gives the MEF Commander the ability to make a more informed decision.

But the equipment alone does not get the job done. Someone has to insert with it, move undetected with it, use it properly, send the Intel on it without detection, and extract safely. That is where the training, discipline and passion for this vocation come into play.

A substantial amount of equipment used by 1st Force is non-standard and not in use by the rest of the Marine Corps. The reason for this is simple. The Commanding Officer has a vision, and that is to ensure that the members are the most qualified, best trained, and best equipped Marines and sailors available. The Research and Development system does work, but is occasionally excruciatingly slow, and is sometimes staffed by well meaning people without the necessary operational experience. The bureaucratic inertia inherent in any system can be a matter of life and death for those tasked to operate against an enemy (a notable exception being the FSBE). While it is important that sufficient testing be accomplished to determine what works and what doesn’t, technology often moves along at the cyclic rate, often rendering tested equipment obsolete before it can be deployed. Feathers in hallowed halls get ruffled, but the operators get the best possible equipment now, and that is what leadership is all about.

The price for admission into this very exclusive gun club is sweat and blood. But as General George Patton noted, there is an inverse proportion at work here. The sweat expended in selection and training will pay off in less blood spilled in combat. To that end, training must be as realistic as possible and the training structured and ruthlessly evaluated. It is a never ending process.

When the CH-46 impacted the USNS Pecos in December 1999, the 15th MEU lost seven people — a helicopter Crew Chief from HMM 166, an EOD technician, and five members from the 5th Platoon. This was a tragic loss to the immediate and extended families, especially coming at the beginning of the Holiday Season.

The families were the of course the first priority, and while the Navy DSRV went about the task of recovering bodies from 3900 feet of cold Pacific water, the Company provided what solace it could.

A memorial service was held at the Base Theater. The clergy prayed, VIP’s spoke, and the media filmed.

But the real closure came after the formal service when an Irish Wake of grand proportions (trust me on this one- I’ve been to a lot of these and this one was Grand) was held in the Paraloft. Present and former Reconnaissance Marines and sailors from Okinawa and Hawaii, Camp Lejeune and numerous post and stations showed up. Members of the Company who were there at its birth and those who fought in Viet Nam. Cops from LA, San Diego and other agencies who had worked and trained with Force over the years. Traditionally, when a member leaves the Company a paddle ceremony is held. Everyone gets to say something about the member who is leaving. At the end, he is presented with a paddle, suitably engraved, and a certificate of his service with the Company.

This time the paddles were given to the families. We paid tribute to those who died doing something they truly loved. It lasted well into the next morning, but when it wrapped up, it was over. 5th Platoon received five volunteers to back fill their teams, and deployed on schedule.

That former members of the Company came is not coincidental. The relationship between former and present members is strong and ongoing. There is a standing invitation to visit the Company at any time. Formal invitations are extended for the Company Birthday, and for the Marine Corps Birthday Ball.

This relationship is more than social (though it is of course that). It is more of a continuing legacy of shared misery and success. SgtMaj Kevin Naughton (there should be a photograph of Kevin Naughton next to the term "Sergeant Major" in the dictionary) said it best. "These are the days you will always look back on".

Recently several Team Leaders from the 65-70 era conducted a Professional Military Education (PME) lecture. They shared with the Marines now in the Company their experiences in leading reconnaissance patrols against the NVA in northern I Corps, bringing with them patrol maps, warning orders, and E&E plans. They conducted a map talk of a selected patrol, and it was apparent that time had not dimmed the emotions of these warriors.

It is this continuing legacy that ensures lessons of the past will not be forgotten.

In a society that idolizes screen actors and considers sports figures to be heroes; who tolerate lying and malfeasance at the highest level of government; a society who believes in self esteem over self worth; a society that believes if the standards are too high they must be lowered in order to bring in sub standard people, the Force Reconnaissance community is a breath of fresh and extremely sweet air.

They are not trained to dig wells or build churches. There is none of the grossly misnamed less lethal training going on here. They are neither peace-keepers nor hallway monitors. There is no feminization or gender norming, nor any political correctness.

There is a palatable sense of confidence that permeates their very being, and for good reason. They have a passion for their chosen vocation. If the socialist policy of comparative worth were to be enforced, the men in the Company would force the country into bankruptcy. They are a National Treasure. Ohh-Rah!

1 The Black Rifle, Ezell, pg. 360.

2 ibid. pg. 350-352.

3 Tactical Shooter, July 1999.

4 Considering that the Ml6 family has been around for over 4 decades, it is difficult to understand why this hasn’t been accomplished previously. It was considered during the M16A2 upgrade, but as the story goes a general officer felt that there were too many changes already being considered, and ripped up the last page of the proposal - that page suggesting an ambidextrous selector and mag catch.

5 TM81O14A-14&P.

6 Comparison of Wound Ballistic Potential of 9mm vs. 5.56mm Cartridges for Law Enforcement Entry Applications, Roberts and Bullian, pg. 5.

7 The Tactical Carbine in the CQB Environment, Tactical Shooter, April 1999.

8 The Marines MEU(SOC) Pistol, Tactical Shooter, June, 1999.

9 The Marine Corps has replaced most of its 619 MP5N and 39 non standard (MP5A3, MP5SD3, Colt and Sten, MlO and Uzi) sub caliber machine guns with the M4AJ carbine in 1998.

2,207 views2 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page