FORT BENNING, Ga., (July 3, 2013) -- 2nd Lt. Samuelu Wells had one shot Wednesday and wanted to make the most of it.
It was likely the only time he would ever fire a M136 AT4 rocket launcher in his Army career.

Wells took his time as he aimed, a heap of ruins 350 meters away, at his target. He said he felt nervous and wasn't quite comfortable with the trigger mechanism, which requires the operator to hold down the safety while pushing the button to fire.

A shockwave shook the ground as the 84-millimeter shell released from the tube and hit the target dead on at Patton Range.

"It was just awesome," said the 22-year-old from American Samoa. "A great feeling."

Wells was one of 108 Soldiers who went through Week 7, or "Machine Gun Week," of the 17-week Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course. The young lieutenants of IBOLC became familiar with a variety of heavy weapons and artillery, including the AT4, the M19 and M203 grenade launchers and the M250 machine gun. For most of the Soldiers, it was the first time they had used these weapons, said Capt. James Gallagher, commander of A Company, 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment.

"They're a little nervous the first time, but they've gone through the proper training," Gallagher said.

Gallagher also said IBOLC would be the only time a vast majority of the Soldiers would use an AT4, which fires a projectile at 950 feet per second and is capable of penetrating more than 15 inches of armor. For the AT4, the Soldiers were allowed seven 9 mm practice rounds before firing a live round.

2nd Lt. Shane James said the AT4 was his favorite, while he found the M19 grenade launcher to be the most difficult.

"They're all a little bit different," James said.

"With the M19, you don't have to focus too much down the sights. With the single round (AT4) ... the shot is going to where your sight is."

The bulk of the firing took place June 25 and Wednesday at Patton Range and Malone 4.
"The purpose of this week is to support one of IBOLC's training outcomes -- to make lieutenants technically and tactically proficient in combined arms doctrine," Gallagher said.

"The lieutenants need to see and understand the weapons systems they will use in their Infantry platoons.

"It's not to make them experts, but to introduce them to the capabilities of the weapons, effects and how to incorporate them into their tactical planning."

James said the lieutenants also learned the importance of firing a crew-served weapon -- one that takes more than one person to operate, such as the M250 machine gun.

Along with firing the M250, each Soldier had to be an assistant gunner, James said -- loading rounds and putting them on target.

"With a crew weapon, it's all about making life easier for the other person," he said. "Everyone has their own role and responsibility."

James said he looks forward to eventually commanding a platoon after familiarizing himself with the heavy weapons.

"If you get to your first unit and you're green, it doesn't look good," he said. "I'm by no means an expert, but by using these weapons, I'm more comfortable around them."