FORT IRWIN, Calif. - The hills around Fort Irwin echoed with the loud cannon roar from the tanks of "Cold Steel."

Troopers from C Troop, 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, conducted Tank Table 6 live-fire qualification gunnery at the Range 1facility here, Jan. 4-8.

Live-fire events such as these are irreplaceable said Capt. Christopher Kane, commander of C Troop, 1st Sqdn, 11th ACR.

"There's nothing you can do to replace that, I don't care what simulator or virtual training you do, there's nothing like the real thing, Capt. Kane said. "You're on cloud nine as a 19K (M1 Armor crewman), it's by-far, the peak season for C Troop."

With the busy and high operational tempo of the Blackhorse Troopers, gunneries and ranges are squeezed in between rotations. The live-fire gunneries are an opportunity for C Troop, nicknamed "Cold Steel," tankers to keep their skills sharp, skills that, with current overseas contingency operations, are not always fully utilized.

"It is a perishable skill," he said. "In the armor corps, we're not able to execute our mission in the current fight. Any opportunity to be on a tank is a blessing, especially given our dual mission here."

The captain also said that having trained and proficient Soldiers here may also strengthen the armor corps as a whole.

"I understand that there are people who will PCS from here and go on to units that are deploying or go to units that are going to be on tanks, so any opportunity to train on that specific skill is a good thing," Capt. Kane said. "We owe that to those units who get these Soldiers to get the best trained Soldier possible. We get guys here out of AIT who have never fired a tank and even some NCOs who have never been on a tank their whole career, they were in Strykers."

To ensure that all Soldiers receive adequate training, the Cold Steel command turned to their veteran NCOs. 1st Sgt. Jim Fulford said mentoring and training junior Soldiers is one of the most important tasks that they do.

"Our NCOs must train and mentor the junior Soldiers during gunnery to ensure we remain safe while reinforcing our deadly skill set," 1st Sgt. Fulford said. "The training they receive in OSUT (One Station Unit Training) sets the foundation, but the experience and expertise imparted to them by their NCOs builds the knowledge base that shapes their career.

C Troop met a few challenges during their week of gunnery. For some Soldiers, it was their first time qualifying in certain jobs.

"We worked slow and worked safe," he said. "We had seven first time commanders, six first time gunners; and all crews qualified. We operated safely and no one got hurt. It was a success, two thumbs up, no one got hurt, everybody had fun, and everybody had specific training. You couldn't trade that for the world."

As Soldiers and their Family members spent the week adjusting to life back on Fort Irwin, the tankers of Cold Steel welcomed them back rattling windows in the housing area and filling the quiet hills around Fort Irwin with echoes from the tanks' 120 mm main gun.

"It was tough to go back, but the guys were fresh, it was a way to celebrate the time off from the monotony of doing the rotations," Capt. Kane said. "But I tell you, I sat back at the back of my troop watching the sun set on Teifort, smoking a cigar, a victory for Tank Table 6 and I hear my boys just talking. I've never heard morale so high, and if that's all it takes is a tank gunnery to be that motivated, then I'll do that every month if I can. "It was definitely a good experience, the Soldiers loved it; I wish they could do it every day of their life."

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