By Marine Corps Cpl. Paul S. Martinez
Marine Corps Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif., March 12, 2015 – Whether in training or in combat, a little bit of time can make a big difference to a Marine.
With precious time in mind, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Nicholas J. Cascone, an amphibious assault vehicle crewman for Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force, decided that there had to be a more efficient way to function as the assistant gunner of an amphibious assault vehicle crew.
“The assistant gunner of an AAV crew has multiple responsibilities, often at the same time,” Cascone said.
Specifically, he said he deals with ammunition and dunnage from the Mk-19 40 mm grenade launcher and .50-caliber machine gun and the weapons’ maintenance.
Cascone noticed the spent-rounds box -- intended to hold dunnage from internal .50-caliber machine gun rounds -- could use some improvement.
Studies Spent-rounds Ammo Box
“The box itself is a very strange shape and conforms to the inside of the turret,” Cascone said. “It has clips all over it and often gets caught from top to bottom and left to right. A lot of times, especially when it is full and weighing approximately 30 pounds, it requires a lot of maneuver[ing] to remove.”
He said he remembers his initial assistant gunner training, when “everything made sense except for that box.”
“Many [assistant gunners] would agree it is a poorly designed piece of the turret,” Cascone said. He said he decided to brainstorm on a slight modification that would allow the box to make its intended task much easier, allowing AAV crews to quickly lock, load and return to the fight. He had to start at “square one,” he said, which meant acquiring one of the original boxes.
Engineering a Fix
A trip down to the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Organization allowed Cascone to obtain a used box. He said he then found a welder in the Jacksonville, North Carolina, area who agreed to bring his concept to life.
“The metal worker primarily dealt with art railings and very intricate metal works,” Cascone said. “He mentioned it would be completely different from what he normally does, but he was all about it, and I was able to give him the box and concept. The next day, he was done.”
Cascone said he was eager to show his prototype to his fellow crewmen and chain of command so they could see how it functioned. He said he was impressed how perfect the fit was.
The modified box features a handle that allows for the assistant gunner to simply pull it out like a desk drawer. Cascone said the change helps alleviate the hassle of trying to unclip the box and remove it from the top.
“It’s made out of the same shell as the old one, but one end is cut off, as well as the bottom to allow small rounds to fall through without jamming the box,” Cascone said. “I also added a latch on the outside to hold it in [place] when we are on the move.”
Since the prototype created after the unit’s recent range exercises, Cascone was only recently able to put it to the test here at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center on Range 500 and share it with his fellow crewmen.
“It worked a lot better than even I expected,” Cascone said. “I only found one or two small improvements to make on it, but other than that it’s good.”
Marines Approve ‘Amazing’ Changes
The other Marines in the platoon took notice as well.
“This spent-rounds box is amazing,” said Marine Corps Sgt. Jaime Granados, the AAV platoon’s assistant section leader. “Initially, the hassle that the normal spent-rounds box has is the latches on the top, bottom and sides. If the gunner has his foot there, and you are trying to move the box while he or she is shooting, it could get them off target. With this, you can remove it without the gunner even noticing, and quickly put it back in once they start firing again.”
Granados said he also noticed a significant time difference between the two boxes.
“With the normal box, it was about 30-45 seconds to change out,” he said. “But with this new one, it’s an easy 15 seconds to pull out, dump the dunnage in another ammo can, and slide it back in where it belongs.”
Cascone said he hopes to make a few slight modifications and then share the innovation with more Marines in the AAV community.