FORT IRWIN, Calif.-Although typically known for shooting down enemy aircraft or rockets, air-defense artillerymen recently took time to focus on other facets of their war-fighting skills, firing machine guns.

Troopers from I Battery, 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, conducted a machine gun qualification range at Fort Irwin, Calif., Aug. 24. The range was designed to refresh and qualify I Btry. Soldiers with the M2 .50 Caliber Machine Gun, M240 B and M249 Squad Automatic Weapon.

"It's good training," said Staff Sgt. Dana Woodley, the platoon sergeant for 2nd Platoon. "It's something everyone needs to do every now and again."

The native of Vancouver, Wash., said live-fire weapons ranges keep his Soldiers' shooting skills fresh and it was important to be combat-ready.

"We all need to be able to fire our weapons, we're ineffective if we can't shoot," Staff Sgt. Woodley said. "We are still a tactical unit; we can be called to war at anytime."

He also said that it was vital for the junior Soldiers to be able to fire the machine guns. For some of his Soldiers, this was their first time with some of the weapons systems.

"On top of our usual qualifications, it's also good for our new Soldiers coming in to get familiarized with the weapons, considering they don't get this much training in basic anymore," said Pvt. Feliciano Castilliano, a Stinger gunner with I Btry. "It's a good opportunity for the new guys to get out and get some trigger time."

With the operational tempo at the National Training Center requiring Blackhorse Troopers to be out in the field for up to three weeks at a time, training between rotations is a priority. The Blackhorse command has put a strong emphasis on leaders finding time to squeeze in quality training in the week or two between rotations.

After all the firers had fired the machine guns, range organizers went on to set up an impromptu M4 range to zero and qualify Troopers who needed to do so.
One of the more junior Soldiers on the range, Pvt. Castilliano recognized the importance of conducting ranges in between rotations at the NTC.

"With the tempo of our mission, we don't get this kind of opportunities very often," said Pvt. Castilliano, a native of Honolulu. "It is very important that we take every opportunity that we get to go to the range and qualify on our primary and secondary weapons and maintain our common Soldier skills."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16