Dragonslayers Rattle JBLM
June 25, 2012
Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.--The staccato pounding of the .50 caliber machine gun and the rattle of spent shell casings reverberated across the training area as Soldiers sent curtains of steel into targets, proving they will be able to do it when called upon.
During a gunnery range, B Battery, 5th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, revived their Avenger weapons systems that had lain dormant for years, and also shook the cobwebs off their skills as Air Defense crewmembers.
With this range, the battalion starts to hone its skills and gets back to the basics of being air defense.
"We are out here on the ranges to complete tables 6, 7 and 8 to officially qualify our Avenger teams with the M3P machine gun. It is a modified .50 cal. machine gun that fires at a much higher rate then the standard M2 version," said Capt. Benny Lee, battalion operations officer. "We are currently transitioning back to our core competencies as a 14S [Air and Missile Defense Crewmember]. Pretty much every Soldier that has deployed with this unit has done some other mission besides air defense, but now we are returning to the skills that will allow them to defend the troops on the ground."
The Avenger is a "gyro-stabilized air defense turret mounted on a modified heavy High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV). The turret has two Stinger missile launcher pods, each capable of firing up to 4 fire-and-forget infrared/ultraviolet guided missiles in rapid succession," according to the US Army Fact File webpage.
For a majority of the Soldiers, this training was very important to bring their skills back to the most basic element air defending; finding targets and putting rounds downrange.
"Some of the guys, haven't been back in this vehicle since they left AIT(Advanced Individual Training). Some may have gone to a training room or some other job," said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Denen, A Battery platoon sergeant. "They need to get back to using this equipment. It can take a lot of time to rebuild their perishable skills. We are here to bring the battalion up to a fully ready Avenger battalion, ready to deploy."
Prior to this training, most of the Soldiers in the battalion had been performing a different mission while deployed to Iraq last year.
"In January this unit had just returned from doing a C-RAM(Counter Rocket, Artillery and Missile) mission while in Iraq as the war was coming to an end. Now we are right back into training," said Capt. Talgin Cannon, B Battery commander. "Air defense never winds down, there is always a mission somewhere for us. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, these units are constantly coming in from, and going out to, different locations around the world."
Despite this being a training exercise, the Soldiers were nothing but excited about getting out onto a range and firing their weapons.
"The Soldiers are very motivated to get out here and shoot something they haven't fired since they were in AIT. Just knowing that they get to shoot on this range is a rush for them and they get excited," said Denen. "But they also know that they have steps and check points they have to meet before they get to do that and meeting those requirements is also very motivating to them."
Denen hopes that the Soldiers who are firing and training on this gunnery take with them one important lesson to remember the rest of their careers.
"Confidence; I hope they all remember to have confidence in their weapon system and be confident that they will be able to work through faults in the system and still be able to get rounds onto targets. Once that confidence becomes ingrained, it will impact their confidence in their other critical skills."
For one Soldier the opportunity to be out firing on the range did fuel his confidence in not only himself, but also his unit.
"This training is going to make us much more combat effective and we will know exactly what our weapon system is capable of," said Spc. Thomas Barton, a Jacksonville Ill. native. "I feel we are the best Avenger battalion in the Army."