Marines are heading back to Helmand province, Afghanistan this spring for an advisory mission that will put them back in the thick of the fight between the Taliban and Afghan National Security Forces.
In preparation for the upcoming mission, the 300-man contingent of Marines assigned to Task Force Southwest spent a day honing foreign weapons skills to familiarize themselves with the arms the Afghans use every day. On Jan. 17, the Marines practiced firing two well-known Soviet-era Kalashnikov weapons: the PK general-purpose machine gun and AK-47 rifle, according to a news release from II Marine Expeditionary Force by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins.
Hopkins noted in the release that these weapons are used by both allies and enemies in the region, making it important for the Marines to understand them and their use.
Marines with Task Force Southwest fire PK general-purpose machine guns during foreign weapons familiarization training. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins
"We want these Marines to familiarize themselves with weapons they might find down range," Staff Sgt. Patrick R. Scott, the foreign weapons chief instructor with Marine Corps Security Cooperation Group, said in a statement. "They need to be able to talk intelligently about them to their foreign security force, and that'll help them build rapport and hopefully help them become successful in the long run."
The weapons course also included live-fire ranges with weapons systems more familiar to Marines: the Mk-19 machine gun and the 60mm mortar.
A Marine with Task Force Southwest fires an AK-47 during foreign weapons and familiarization training. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins
Before the Marines deploy, they will also train with hired Afghan roleplayers–a mainstay of military cultural training.
"I find it… inspirational that I get to help and be a part of the step that gets Marines back into Afghanistan," Sgt. Hayden Chrestmen, a machine gun instructor with the Division Combat Skills Center, said in the release "As an Afghanistan veteran, it's extremely important they know how to operate these weapon systems because they're protecting their brothers to the left and right of them."