Sharing heritage and history: Marine Cryptologic Support Battalion learn about battle of Okinawa, shoot WWII firearms

Pat Wheeler, Class 3 chairman of the Associated Gun Club of Baltimore, demonstrates the fully automatic capabilities of the Thompson submachine gun for 40 members of the Marine Cryptologic Support Battalion during the four-hour professional military education event on Jan. 25, 2017, at the club’s shooting range in Marriottsville. (Photo by Nate Pesce)
Retired Col. Lou Schott, 96, speaks to the Marines about fighting in the World War II battles of Peleliu and Okinawa. (Photo by Nate Pesce)

Wearing a Marines cap adorned with the Purple Heart, 96-year-old Lou Schott watched as 40 members of Headquarters Company, Marine Cryptologic Support Battalion fired rifles, shotguns and pistols used in World War II.

Schott, a retired colonel who served in the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa, was the guest lecturer during a professional military education event on Jan. 25 led by the battalion to learn about Marine Corps history during World War II.

“There is a great amount of respect on the part of young Marines for the guys who came before them,” Schott said after his lecture. “You learn Marine Corps history in boot camp, but I had the opportunity to add a little [more information].”

The four-hour event was hosted by the Old Post Rifle and Pistol Club at the Associated Gun Clubs of Baltimore in Marriottsville, and featured a catered lunch by Mission BBQ.

“The Old Post Gun Club, American Legion Post 156, and other local veteran and civilian organizations and individuals have volunteered to support and participate in the event,” said Capt. Justin Pavlischek of the Marine Cryptologic Support Battalion

“In that respect, it was a great opportunity for both today’s Marines and the veterans to engage with and participate in our shared heritage.”

Twenty-five members from those clubs, many of whom are owners of the historic guns, volunteered to help provide weapons and safety instruction to the Marines.

One of the volunteers was former Marine Cpl. Mike Simms of the Baltimore County Game and Fish Club.

“Mostly we’re here to make sure everything is done safely,” Simms said. “Even if everyone is in the military, loading the [M1] Garand can be tricky.”

The event featured a display of World War II weapons used by both the U.S. and Japan as well as military memorabilia.

“Rather than a classroom setting, we wanted the event to be interactive,” Pavlischek said. “We had an array of World War II artifacts on display from both the United States and Japanese forces. The Marines [also had] the opportunity to fire authentic weapons from the era.”

Lance Cpl. Leslie Paz of Marine Cryptologic Support Battalion fires a World War II bolt action rifle during the event hosted by the Old Post Rifle and Pistol Club at the Associated Gun Clubs of Baltimore in Marriottsville. (Photo by Nate Pesce)

Honoring History

At the gun range, Schott offered some words of wisdom for current and future Marines.

“Honor the Corps and your job,” he said. “Do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons, and take care of each other. Don’t let a guy down on your right or left.

“You might not like the guy, but you’ll save his life and risk your own. That’s a real Marine. That’s what makes the Marine Corps. I would emphasize that to all young Marines today.”

Schott spoke alongside former National Security Agency employee Tom Glenn and Master Gunnery Sgt. Richard E. Deuto, who works at Marine Forces, Cyber Command.

The American Legion Post 156 invited Glenn to speak at the event. During his 15-minute speech, Glenn spoke about his experience working with Marines in Vietnam, where he was one of the last Americans evacuated from Saigon in 1975.

Deuto presented a 75-minute battle study on the battle of Okinawa, discussing how the conflict progressed through the planning, amphibious landing and land battle. To illustrate the era, Deuto brought uniforms, maps and gear from World War II.

Throughout Deuto’s speech, Schott interjected his personal experiences and stories from the battle, which “provided color and a real gravitas to the presentation,” Pavlischek said.

“Deuto ended the presentation by driving home the point that the Marine uniform isn’t our own,” Pavlischek said. “It belongs to the [Marine] Corps, and we wear it to honor the country and Marines like Colonel Schott and all the generations of Marines who have gone before us.”

The group later headed to the 100-yard shooting range where they tried their hand shooting an M1 Garand, M97 trench gun, M12 trench gun, Springfield M1903, M1903A3 and M1903A4, M1 carbine, M1941 Johnson and an M1911 pistol.

At the end of the shooting activity, Sgt. Francis Pouliot and Lance Cpl. Bryson Walker had the highest shooting scores. They each had the opportunity to fire the M1A1 Thompson Submachine Gun.

“It’s pretty exciting to shoot again,” Lance Cpl. Leslie Paz said. “The last time I shot was [during] boot camp in 2015.”

While spending time on the shooting range was invigorating, Paz also recognized the importance of learning about those who came before her.

“I learned a lot about Marine Corps history [today],” she said. “We take a lot of pride in what we do.”

The idea for this event came from Sgt. Gregory Thompson.

“Well, as Marines, we’re real proud of our history,” he said. “We don’t get that in the office. We work in a building without windows. So to get out and do this is great.”

Thompson started planning the event in November with the intention of getting the company out of the office, learning about Marine Corps history and building camaraderie.

“Today we learned about the battle of Okinawa,” he said. “We got to hear details you can’t find in your history books. [Schott] was speaking from experience, and you don’t usually get to hear that.”

Spending the afternoon together was exciting for both the young Marines and volunteers.

“Most volunteers are here because they’re veterans,” said Steve Randol, a former sergeant. “I’m not in the Marines, but there’s still that connection.”

Sam Bass (center with red hat) briefs the Marines before they step up to fire the WWII weapons during the professional military education course event. (Photo by Nate Pesce)
Facebook Comments