Feb. 23, 2015 --
It’s 4 a.m. at Marine Barracks Washington, D.C. The guards are standing post, duty is standing watch, and the barracks are full of sleeping Marines. At 4:15 a.m., the Marine standing duty decides it is time to rove the barracks to make sure everything is in order. As he makes his customary rounds through the third deck hallway, he bumps into one of the barracks armorers. The armorer, dressed in his utilities uniform with CLP spotted boots, rubs lingering sleep out of his eyes and exchanges greetings with the duty before quietly making his way to the barracks armory located in the lower parking lot of the Bravo Company towers.
At 4:30 a.m., the armorer knocks on the guard shack door and is then escorted to their arms room where he signs out a security pistol and heads down to the armory. There, he is greeted by the Alpha and Bravo Company custodians, Marines who also work down in the armory, and the armory is opened fifteen minutes later for Marines who are drawing weapons at 5 a.m.
It becomes routine, as every morning the armory is open for business at 5 a.m. and closes every evening 11 hours later. Some days, the armory is open even earlier for Marines going out on ranges or Marines requiring their own security pistols.
The billet “armorer” is given to a Marine who is a small arms repairer and technician by trade. These Marines attend school in Fort Lee, Va., an Army base located three hours south from Marine Barracks Washington, D.C. There, they learn how to perform maintenance and repairs on all small arms in the Marine Corps repertoire. After they graduate, they are sent to their respective duty stations with their ordnance certificate in hand and minds brimming with knowledge of procedures and maintenance steps.
The maintenance mission at the barracks is unique in that it is the only armory in the entire Marine Corps that maintains both tactical weaponry for training and use by assigned Marines, and ceremonial M1 Garands. These ceremonial weapons are fully functional because of the armory Marines who perform checks and maintenance services with due diligence. These M1s are able to operate without flaw during any number of funerals the barracks takes part in, as well as weekly summer events such as the Sunset Parade.
The Marines designated to support the barracks’ armory are also responsible for taking part in many of the ceremonial functions conducted by the installation.
Lance Cpl. Marcus Allen is currently on the post’s Colors Detail, assisting in the raising and lowering of the National Ensign famously posted at the head of “Center Walk.” The Armory Staff Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge, Gunnery Sgt. Giancarlo Puccini, can be found practicing Ceremonial Drill, with sword in hand, in preparation for staff try-outs and the opportunity to fill a coveted spot on the marching staff. The newest addition to the armory, Lance Cpl. Jose Rodriguez currently attends weekly practices to be on the honorary Dover Team. These Marines are the official pallbearers for our fallen heroes when they return home at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware; and are tasked with saluting and escorting the casket as it comes out of the plane. The other armorers also host many ceremonies and functions
The work that the armorers and custodians do in the armory is just as important as every other task performed in the barracks. Without them we would not be able to have ranges, field operations, or weapon familiarization courses. Without them it would be difficult to uphold the ideal of the rifleman. But with every trip down to the armory and with every weapon passed through those small windows, we are all reminded that “every Marine is a rifleman.”