Tankers draw a bead on excellence
November 7, 2007
FORT KNOX, Ky. (TRADOC News Service, Nov. 7, 2007) -- The Master Gunner Course held at Fort Knox's Armor School is a two phased course that prepares mid-grade NCOs to serve as the gunnery and technical advisors for commanders at the company level and above. The course is taught for both the M1A2 and the M1A1 Abrams tanks. The two are usually separate courses. But the Master Gunner course has combined the two tanks this cycle into the Multi-Track Master Gunner Program. "This program provides flexibility in meeting the force's training demand for Master Gunners by providing separate programs of instruction for M1A1 and M1A2 SEP simul-taneously," said 3rd Battalion, 16th Cavalry Regiment M Troop 1st Sgt. Robin Ressdorf. "This allows for us to better support the National Guard, U.S. Marine Corps, foreign Military students, and the regular Army by training more students per class cycle." He said the secret is to start both classes on the same day, share common training, share common resources, share ranges, and then graduate both classes at the same time. The class for this cycle started with the 28 students of the Class 01-08. According to Master Sgt. Garry Galloway, the branch chief of the Master Gunner branch, a master gunner is someone who had been tanking for awhile and knows the basics of the tank and its missions. "The master gunner is a subject matter expert who knows the tank from the maintenance to the gunning, and he can mentor young tank commanders," Galloway explained. "He also helps develop gunnery plans based off crew and tank capability-it's all about as-sessment and management. They find the crew's or company's weakness and train to improve." To help train master gunners, Ressdorf said the unit has some new training aids, including a 120mm functional training device nicknamed, "Big Sexy Gun tube." "We used to use an antiquated gun system from WWII to describe the various parts and phases of functions of the tank cannon system," Ressdorf said. "Now we have resourced parts and have cobbled together our very own tank cannon. It is mounted on a static ground mount, has relief cuts to better describe internal areas, and it can be used to train certain maintenance applications." Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Hurst said that the tube is used to better teach the different main-tenance issues involved with the assembly. "For example, the breach cutaway helps explain the five phases of function of the breach, helps explain what happens when the round fires in the tube, and helps explain the recoil mechanism with the large spring," he said. "The recoil mechanism is important because it allows the gun tube to slide back, which keeps the gun from jamming and it also lubes the moving parts. Master gunners need to know all these fine points, and seeing them here helps." The end of the gun is also cut away so students can see learn about damage to a bore after firing, as is the bore evacuator so they can see what each part does. "The bore evacuator allows gases to escape during a round being fired and prevents gases from going back in to the tank where the crew is-the gas is superheated gas that could prove lethal to the crew so it is important to know how this function," Hurst said. While there are many similarities between the A2 and A1 tanks, the main difference, according to Hurst and Galloway, is that the A2 is more computer-friendly and techno-logically advanced-like an MP3 player verses and IPod, or a cell phone verses a palm pilot, Hurst added. Students in the 45-day course have to pass several tests to stay in the course, and must graduate with a 90 percent because, "you want your test technical advisors in the force-especially since we are at war. You want the cream of the crop," explained Galloway. Ressdorf said the program will hopefully include training for a Mobile Gun System some-time in the future-a course integrated with the current one "Additionally, the Master Gunner Branch, in concert with the Armor School, has ex-pended millions of dollars to fund a Mobile Training Teach...," he added. "The thought process here is for the Master Gunner Course to deploy to a unit's home station and teach the exact same nine-week resident course from custom built semi trailers for up to 18 Master Gunner candidates. Master Gunner Branch anticipates this capability to be ready as early as (the third quarter of 2008)." Ressdorf said anyone interested in the course should check the course dates in ATARRS. Potential students with general questions about upcoming courses may contact the Master Gunner Branch at (502) 624-8530 or 1055 or 2167. Combining the classes has one more advantage, though. "These tankers-from different branches-all train together so they are all trained to the same standard," Galloway said. "And eventually, when they come back together in com-bat, learning together here will pay off in other ways."