AL ASAD, Iraq -- Before Marines and soldiers can go outside the wire, they must prepare for any situation that may need attention when on convoys or patrolling the desert of Iraq.
One way Marines prepare is to work on weapons familiarization at the small arms range here. A select group of Marines with 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion schedule and work the ranges for Al Asad.
Corporal Brandon Upton, a range operations noncommissioned officer and recent recipient of a combat meritorious promotion, has stepped up to the challenge and performed well during his unit’s deployment to Iraq.
“Upton has a unique ability to perform well at any task he is given,” said First Sgt. Paul Berry, Headquarters and Service Company first sergeant with security battalion. “When he arrived here he had no more training with weapons than what any other Marine gets at Marine Combat Training after recruit training. He learned a lot in a short amount of time and now shares his knowledge with the units that use the range.”
Upton, originally an Avenger anti-air weapons system mechanic, was put into his billet as a way to lend a hand in the fight. Since there is little use for anti-aircraft weapons in Iraq all of the mechanics and operators find other ways to help the battalion accomplish their mission. The battalion has taken on security responsibilities while deployed to Iraq making many of their Marines perform different duties outside of their original military occupational specialty.
“Now I give classes on different weapons systems and run ranges so that they are safe and efficient,” said Upton, a 2001 graduate of Aransas High School in Aransas Pass, Texas. “I supply our troops with the knowledge and experience they need to use their weapons correctly and confidently if the need to use them were to arise.”
While Upton was in high school he played a variety of sports and was a member of the band, but after graduating his dream of becoming a Marine was able to be fulfilled.
“My grandfather had been a Marine and it was something I always wanted to do,” Upton said. “I wanted to be part of that family tradition and gain the pride of serving my country.”
In October 2001 Upton reported to Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, for his initial training. Upon graduation Upton reported to Twentynine Palms, Calif., for aviation radio technician school before reporting to 2nd LAAD in Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, N.C., in April 2003.
Since joining the Marine Corps Upton has seen how his life has changed and how the Marine Corps played an important role in his maturity.
“I love the Marine Corps,” Upton said. “It has afforded me many different opportunities I would not have had otherwise. I have gained a lot of discipline and understand how the world works a little better than if I had just gone to college.”
This deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom is Upton’s first. He has enjoyed serving his country at a time of war and understands how important it is to lend a hand to the fight.
“I came here to do what I could to contribute to the fight,” Upton said. “I have a support role, but it is very important. Without our ranges the troops who perform convoys, patrols and other missions outside the wire would not be able to test fire their weapons and work on their skills in between missions. A big part of my job is to make sure every Marine or soldier that comes to my range leaves feeling confident in their weapons and could defend themselves if they needed to.”
This recently married Marine has excelled while working with range operations. He has been combat meritoriously promoted and is the go-to Marine for questions about small arms weapons procedures. With Marines like Upton, the Marines and soldiers aboard Al Asad are able to protect themselves and their fellow service members while carrying out operations throughout the Al Anbar province.
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