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Published On: Fri, Jan 16th, 2015

Tampa native Jeffery Cavallo quoted by Navy in Iwo Jima coverage

RED SEA (Jan. 14, 2015) – Clean-shaven face. Pressed uniform. Boots shined like marble. This is the appearance of Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class Zachariah Smith as he stands in line for chow.

The line moves at a steady-enough pace as he steps up to get his food. The Sailor behind the serving line slaps a steak and some potatoes on his plate, and sends Smith on his way.

Smith gets his drink, finds his friends, and sits down. Just as his tray hits the table an announcement comes over the ship’s 1MC.

“Man SCAT,” says the Tactical Action Officer from the Combat Information Center. “Man SCAT.”

Knowing his duty, Smith tosses his food, and bolts to the armory. He grabs his keys, protective gear, hearing protection and everything else he needs.

Not missing a beat, he sprints to his assigned MK 58 machine gun, uncovers it and, loads the ammunition.

USS Iwo Jima LHD7 photo by MC2(SW) Zane P Ecklund

USS Iwo Jima LHD7 photo by MC2(SW) Zane P Ecklund

The Gunnery Liaison Officer (GLO) with him calls the commanding officer (CO). “Blue vessel spotted,” says the GLO. “Port side. Moving parallel and matching our speed. Explosives spotted.”

Suddenly the blue vessel takes a sharp turn toward the ship. “Target quickly approaching the ship, sir.”

“Batteries release,” calls the CO.
“Warning shots fired, sir,” says the GLO.
“Disabling fire,” says the CO.

Smith fires on the target; taking out their motor and stopping the vessel.

“We are the last line of defense for this ship,” said Smith, an Abilene, Kansas native aboard amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7). “I don’t truly trust missiles, but if I pull the trigger on an M2HB, it’s gonna fire.”

It is the job of a Gunner’s Mate (GM) to handle and maintain all guns and their associated ammunition aboard the ship, manning the guns when necessary.

“On a typical day for us, we wake up, do any maintenance that comes up and preserve our guns,” said Smith. “We also make sure the ammunition is stored the way it’s supposed to be and not tampered with.”

GMs are not only responsible for maintaining and manning the guns of the ship. They also conduct training to qualify Sailors on small arms.

“I enjoy training people,” said Gunner’s Mate Seaman Shane Conroy, a Cheyenne, Wyoming native aboard Iwo Jima. “I love it when random people come by the armory and ask to get 9mm training or M16 training, because then I get to teach them something. It’s a lot of fun getting to teach people.”

With all of the cleaning, maintaining, manning and training GMs still enjoy their jobs and the Navy as a whole.

“I like deployment,” said Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Jeffery Cavallo, a Tampa, Florida native aboard Iwo Jima. “I like the Navy. A lot of people complain about it, but I think it’s a good time.”

Through thick and thin, GMs keep pushing through, keep giving it their all and continue aiding the ship in completing its mission.

Iwo Jima is the flagship for the Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and, with the embarked 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), provides a versatile, sea-based expeditionary force that can be tailored to a variety of missions in the U. S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

For more information on Iwo Jima please feel free to visit and like its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/USSIwoJimaLHD7.
U. S. Navy story by Mass Communication Specialist Shelby M. Tucker

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