Weapons training becomes 'foreign' experience for 162nd Soldiers
June 29, 2009
FORT POLK, La. -- Nineteen Soldiers assigned to the 162nd Infantry Brigade recently had a foreign experience with weapons when they undertook a training mission at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.
The Soldiers, who will conduct training for combat advisors deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan, underwent a 40-hour, week-long course in foreign weapons. The training, conducted by the 203rd Military Intelligence Battalion, consisted of three days of weapons familiarization of sub-machine guns, machine guns, rifles, pistols and the rocket-propelled grenade.
"We went over the history, characteristics, specifications, clearing, disassembly, reassembly and functions check of each weapon," said Master Sgt. John Patterson, 162nd Inf Bde assistant operations sergeant. "The fourth day was spent at the range where we shot the SKS, AK-47, RPK, SVD, PKM and the FPK. The last day consisted of a test and course critique."
The Soldiers selected for this training primarily come from the brigade's 1st Battalion, 353rd Infantry Regiment, but included select members of the brigade staff, according to Maj. Mark Olin, 162nd Inf Bde operations officer.
The group included Soldiers and select members of each of the other four training battalions and the brigade staff. They went to Maryland to receive expert instruction and "train the trainer" on a wide range of foreign weapons to provide that training to combat advisors at Fort Polk later in the fall.
Soldiers of the 1-353rd will serve as trainers for combat advisors as they familiarize with weapons currently in use among Iraqi and Afghan security forces.
"The importance of this training is two-fold; first, training host nation security forces is a key aspect of the combat advisor mission, and it's important for the advisors to fully understand the weapon systems to maintain their credibility as trainers; and second, understanding how to pick up and effectively use a foreign weapon system is a vital combat survival skill for teams that will operate largely independently of other U.S. forces," Olin said.
This training is also important because it has been mandated by U.S. Army Forces Command. The 162nd Inf Bde took a different approach on conducting the training.
"This training was conducted at great expense at Fort Riley, Kan., as a result of an untrained and inexperienced cadre and the magnitude, complexity and scope of the contract that provided instructors, dozens of Russian style weapons and appropriate ammunition to support an annual student population of about 5,000 Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen," Olin said.
The 162nd conducted a cost benefit analysis on the foreign weapons training for future combat advisors. This generated areas where the unit could pursue some cost saving measures such as organic foreign weapons experts and organic weapons.
"The acquisition of foreign weapons has proven more difficult than the training," Olin said. "Ultimately, in-house foreign weapons trainers will save the brigade over $200,000 annually."
The training was conducted by the 203rd Military Intelligence Battalion, a subordinate command of the National Ground Intelligence Center.
The 203rd is the U.S. military's foreign weapons proponent who has a persistent relationship with USSOCOM units such as the Naval Special Warfare's SEALS. While this training may be "foreign" to conventional Army forces, it is one small piece of the important mission of training combat advisors.
"While not as important as other force protection and survivability training events, foreign weapons familiarization remains a vital component of combat advisor training, and each Soldier that conducts training with the 162nd will receive about two days of familiarization training with weapons, such as the AK-47, the RPK and PKC machine guns, and even the RPG rocket launcher," Olin said.