FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. - The "office view" was a gunnery range for Soldiers from the 200th Military Police Command who jumped on the U.S. Army Reserve's largest gunnery operation, Operation Cold Steel II, at Fort Hunter Liggett, California, to train on crew-served machine guns Oct. 12 - Dec. 15, 2017.
More than 100 military police Soldiers participated in a two-month training rotation known as Task Force Coyote, which included approximately 2,000 U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers. Three additional task forces are scheduled to run in 2018 at various ranges around the U.S., expected to train an additional 8,000 Soldiers.
For many of these Soldiers, it was the first time qualifying on crew serve weapons of this caliber.
Spc. Katrina Mendez, 607th MP Battalion, said this was her first time firing the M2 machine gun.
"You look at those bullets. Those things are huge! ... And the first time you feel it, you're like, 'Oh my God, this is a lot of power!'" she said.
"But then you realize, 'I can handle this. I can do this,"' she added.
Once she got the hang of it, she felt empowered and capable, she said.
Based on the unit's assigned weapons, Soldiers went through two days of classroom and virtual training, then finally got to experience live fire to qualify on the M2 machine gun, the M249 light machine gun, the Mark 19 40 mm grenade machine gun or the M240B machine gun.
Overall, there was a sense of excitement and enthusiasm among the Soldiers as they experienced hands-on training, from learning about the various components of their machine guns to firing live rounds at pop up targets.
During one cycle, Soldiers from the 56th MP Company trained and qualified on the M240B machine gun, while Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 224th MP Company, 384th MP Battalion and 607th MP Battalion qualified on the M2 machine gun.
Task Force Coyote was hosted by the 79th Theater Support Command, to conduct ground gunnery operations at Fort Hunter Liggett with the 84th Training Command providing oversight.
This is the second year Operation Cold Steel has been executed, with the goal of training thousands of Soldiers to meet the needs of combatant commands around the globe as part of Ready Force X. That means sending Army Reserve Soldiers who are capable and lethal on high-caliber weapons anywhere in the world, when needed.
Staff Sgt. Mishael Dominguez, an AN/PAS-13 thermal weapon sight instructor, said his job is rewarding, especially when Soldiers show a strong interest and curiosity by asking questions about the weapon systems. Dominguez said this gives him the opportunity to pass on leadership and training to troops who need it most.
"I wanted to be able to exercise my position as an (noncommissioned officer) and be a leader, and this is a great experience of being able to train these troops," he said.
Dominguez said this training isn't specific to just one military occupational specialty (MOS), such as military police.
"We are all Soldiers, regardless of MOS ... and we all should be trained on weapon systems," he said.
Each day presented its own training challenges because the size and experience level of each class varied, said Dominguez. Regardless, the goal is to train Soldiers proficiently, and that's what Operation Cold Steel has been doing.
Firing these weapons isn't an individual accomplishment. Soldiers worked as gunnery teams, taking turns behind the trigger while the assistant gunner helped spot targets and feed ammunition into the weapon system.
"When you're battled up with somebody that you've been working with for a while, it makes it more fun because you get to do cool stuff together," said Spc. Fatima Flores, who was teamed up with fellow MP, Mendez.
"We've been working on the M2 .50-caliber weapon. We learned how to take it apart, how to put it back together. We learned how to fix jams, how to clear the weapon, and pretty much just how it functions all together," said Mendez.
Mendez and Flores explained the importance of the training as it pertains to being military police. Military police Soldiers are capable of deploying as gunners and drivers among other duties and in these positions, Mendez and Flores are ready.
"I feel confident that I can actually protect my Soldiers," said Mendez.