AT SEA - Corporal Michael Yodice sat on a table surrounded by 10 M9 service pistols aboard the armory of amphibious transport dock ship USS Anchorage (LPD 23). He had cleaned and inspected each weapon personally. As the sole Marine Corps armorer aboard the ship, Yodice, a small arms repair technician with 1st Maintenance Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, had the responsibility of making sure the different weapons systems worked for the 196 Marines and sailors with his current detachment, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force ASEAN.
“I repair weapons, maintain them, keep accountability of them and make sure they operate optimally,” said Yodice, of Butler, N.J. “Depending on how much training is going on, armorers can work long hours. It’s important that we maintain our attention to detail at all times.”
With the click of a button and the flip of a switch, Yodice deftly disassembled one of the service pistols and started inspecting it, cleaning and tweaking as he saw necessary.
If a weapon malfunctions in training and fails to fire, a Marine might not be able to hit targets on the range. In a combat environment, if a weapon malfunctions, then it could cost the Marine his or her life. This is why Yodice’s job is crucial, and why attention to detail is paramount in his line of work.
“You have to break these weapons down to their bare bones and make sure every aspect of them is serviceable,” said Yodice. “My favorite part of the job is disassembling the weapons and troubleshooting them. We use critical analysis skills to figure out why weapons are broken, and the causes can range from a simple misfire to something complex and catastrophic like the inside of barrel being structurally defective, causing the round to penetrate it, destroying the weapons system.”
Since his youth, Yodice has wanted to become a gunsmith, citing his family as his biggest influence. His father left him and his mother when he was seven years old, and he looked up to his grandfather instead.
“My whole family has also been in law enforcement so I grew up being comfortable around firearms,” said Yodice. “My grandfather who was the father figure in my life was the leading force in developing a Special Weapons and Tactics team for my hometown. He was the sniper and commander for the team so he taught me a lot about marksmanship and maintaining weapons, I became fascinated with them and I wanted to someday operate and maintain the best weapons in the world.”
Further fuelling his passion for firearms was his uncle Mark, who was an enlisted Marine. His uncle taught him how to maintain weapons at an early age and instilled in him the discipline and military values that would eventually motivate him to enlist as well.
Now, Yodice has been enlisted in the Marine Corps for more than three years, and he has been stationed in Okinawa, Fuji and Marine Corps Air Ground Station Twentynine Palms as a Marine armorer.
He believes he gained valuable experience and knowledge during this time, and plans to use his skills to propel himself to further heights in the arms and ammunition industry.
“I can take the knowledge I have now and go into training to become an armorer for a police agency or even a federal department,” said Yodice. “But I really want to become a gunsmith. I want to build ‘match grade’ weaponry, weapons of the highest quality. Match grade weapons aren’t meant to be used in combat but in competitions instead. They’re very accurate but are expensive and relatively delicate compared to weapons that are used in combat environments.”
Yodice is already planning and building himself up to achieve his goals.
“I want to go into gunsmithing school and take college-level business courses so I can run my own franchise someday,” he added. “I’m preparing myself by reading textbooks on management and finance. I read the news a lot and try to keep up with the times so that when I start my own business, I can adapt to the economic environment. I want to be able to produce and sell the best weapons possible.”
Although Yodice admits that there’s a certain allure to the power associated with firearms, he believes that at the end of the day, restraint and control extremely important when dealing with firearms.
“My family taught me that first and foremost, weapons are there to protect your home and the ones that you love,” said Yodice. “There’s control in putting in a nice shot-group at 500 yards, and there’s another type of control in being a responsible gun owner. There always has to be a balance in your life.”
Yodice is currently training afloat with SPMAGTF-ASEAN, conducting live fire training with nearly 200 Marines from various units using different weapons systems such as the M240B light machinegun, the M16A4 service rifle and the M9 service pistol.
Looking to the future, Yodice is applying to schools in Colorado, New York and Pennsylvania to take formal courses in gunsmithing. Using the opportunities the Marine Corps has afforded him to pursue his dream of becoming a top-class weapons and ammunition craftsman.