USS ENTERPRISE, At Sea (NNS) -- Though its primary arsenal lies in the squadron aircraft embarked aboard USS Enterprise (CVN 65), the ship is also equipped with both small arms and crew-served weapons.
The gunner's mates (GMs) aboard Enterprise are responsible for these weapons and systems. They clean these weapons, maintain them, train crewmembers on their usage, and finally man the .50 caliber gun mounts and M-240 machine guns during special evolutions.
"The role that we play on Enterprise is almost strictly defensive," said Master Chief Gunner's Mate Joseph Cassista, G-2 division leading chief petty officer, from
Cutler, Maine. "We defend the ship with the .50 caliber machine guns, and we own all of the sprinkler systems that keep our weapons magazines safe from fire or accident."
There are 230 Sailors in the Weapons department of
Enterprise, only 18 of them are GMs.
"We're such a small division in such a big department on such a big ship," said Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Kyle T. Gregory, from East St. Louis, Ill. "That aside, I feel like we are one of the most important pieces to the ship because we work with security involving their weapons, and we're a part of most special shipboard evolutions."
G-2 division has custody of the shipboard small arms and is overall in charge of the armory. In addition to these responsibilities, they are also in charge of weapons ranges used for qualifications and training.
"In addition to weapons, we keep the keys to the different weapons magazines in the armory," said Gregory. "Aside from giving those out to G-3 division, we do a lot of training to stay up-to-date with the different weapon requirements and scenarios we encounter in our job."
During underway replenishments (UNREP), up to five GMs will be on station at different UNREP stations prepared to fire shot-lines from Enterprise to whatever ship will be alongside to resupply her. The shot-line, made of spooled thread, is fired from an M-14 rifle and used to move different types of lines and connectors between ships. They remain on station in case of emergency breakaway, in which case they would need to use explosive bolt cutters to disconnect the span-wires between the ships.
Another aspect of the job, perhaps just as, or more, important than assisting in resupplying the ship, is standing .50 caliber gun-mount watches.
There are usually two Sailors per .50 caliber mount, with an additional body allotted to the double .50 caliber mounts to assist in loading the second weapon.
"It's not just the GMs who man the gun mounts during transits and special evolutions, though," said Gregory.
"The aviation ordnancemen from the other divisions of Weapons department also stand the watches with us."
One of the final and more obscure duties of the GM is the "Shark Watch," during which a GM will stand watch with an M-14 watching for sharks while Sailors enjoy a swim-call, though whether or not the GMs of Enterprise will have to stand that watch remains to be seen.
The GMs of G-2 division are not the only ones doing the job, however.
"In G-2 Division, our job as Gunner's Mates is shared by our aviation ordnancemen," said Cassista. Our department is mostly AOs, more than half of my division is AOs, and here, there is no distinction between the two rates. We do the same jobs and maintain the same equipment. The G-2 division on this ship is probably the finest division that I've ever served with."
Enterprise GMs will continue to stand ready to defend the ship as the ship finishes its 25th and final deployment, which currently has them underway in the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility.
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