Aviators Train Rain or Shine
February 12, 2009
<b> FORT STEWART, GA </b> -- The morning began with thin clouds descending on the already wet airfield, Feb. 2 at Camp Blanding, Fla. It wasn't long before it started to rain. A Soldier sighed and said, "If it ain't rainin', we ain't trainin'."
It was the first day of door gunnery training for crew chiefs in Company C, 4th Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment.
"This is a new range," said Sgt. Andrew White, crew chief for Co. C, 4/3 Avn. "We're the guinea pigs for this range. We'll do our training, and then they'll make adjustments based off our comments."
The new Crew Combat Range included a series of tanks in the rear of the range, and a target running a quarter of a mile across. To train, each of the three Black Hawks from Co. C, 4/3 Avn., flies across the range with the crew chiefs shooting from the right side of the aircraft. Each participating crew chief is given 400 rounds to fire from the M-240H machine gun mounted in his door. The first 200 rounds are fired in the first fly-by to give them the opportunity to practice and another 200 rounds to qualify during the following flight. They then repeat the range at night using the night vision goggles.
"This is harder than shooting on the ground because we're moving and so is the target," said Pfc. Jacob Oliver, crew chief. "And, you're worried about the wind a lot more."
Oliver recently moved from Co. D, 4/3 Avn., a maintenance company that provides support to the flight company. His first experience with the M-240H weapon was a month ago when he arrived to Co. C.
"I got to shoot from the ground, but it's different in the air," Oliver said. "We did some (preventive maintenance checks and service) on the 240s during sergeant's time (training) but this is going to be different."
White, who evaluates the gunners in his aircraft, said many new gunners are nervous about shooting, but the nervousness goes away quickly.
"We're evaluating them on their ability to operate the weapon - loading and clearing, and their ability to do all this while doing their duties," White said. "They have to be able to do everything from start up to shut down and still be able to defend the aircraft."
Still, Oliver said he feels confident. Having always wanted to be in aviation, Oliver said he feels prepared and is glad to be a part of a flight company.
"I wanted to go aviation because I wanted to be a pilot," Oliver said. "I heard the best way to be a pilot is to be a Black Hawk or Chinook crew chief, first because they get to fly, but the best part of my job is being able to work with my hero, Sergeant White. He told me that the Co. C Ravens are the baddest air assault in the Army, so here I am."