Company A of the 1st Battalion, 46th Infantry executed machine gun training for its Soldiers-in-training Tuesday at Fort Knox's Heins Range.

The morning began with detailed instructions and demonstrations. Sgt. Robert Mullen and Sgt. Robert Vassallo lectured the SITs about the proper technique and uses for the .50 caliber machine gun and Squad Automatic Weapon, respectively. They also discussed how to load the weapons, what the ammunition should look like, what to do in the event of a misfire, and gave the SITs tips to help them remember.

For example, after telling the SITs that the shiny side of the ammunition belt should face away from the operator, Vassallo added the phrase, "Brass to the grass."

The instruction included details that those from an older generation might find ridiculous - such as "the pointed end of the bullet should be aimed at the enemy."

A few SITs snickered at the absurdity of the instruction, but Vassallo told the company that before the day was over, at least 10 of them would load their weapon with the ammunition pointed at themselves.

Another SIT was concerned when he finally was in position with his practice weapon. Although a practice belt of ammo had been given to each student, none had been loaded into the weapons. The alarmed SIT asked why it was so dark in the ammunition chamber. Through guffaws, the drill sergeants managed to explain that when a real bullet was in the weapon, it would be easy to see.

Later in the lecture, the drill sergeants assured the SITs that charging the weapons - especially the .50 caliber - would not be easy. The trainees were instructed to pull the handle back hard and fast.. Again, a memory cue in the form of rhyme was employed, "Speed is the key."

One slender SIT was cautioned by his platoon sergeant, "Be ready, skinny man. You will float away if you're not careful."

After their practice with hands-on instruction, followed by lunch, the SITs were ready for the live fire session.

"Have fun, but be safe," Vassallo urged.

The trainees took him at his word. One private, after his live fire session with the SAW and the .50 caliber weapon, grinned from ear to ear.

"That's the most fun I've had so far," he said.

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