In this edition of my leader book notes I am discussing the proper setting of the weapon headspace and timing (H&T) of the M2 .50-caliber machine gun. The proper setting of the H&T procedures are contained in Field Manual (FM) 23-65 and Training Manual (TM) 9-1005-213-10.

We are experiencing an extremely high number of avoidable Soldier injuries from improper setting of weapon headspace and timing on the .50 caliber machine gun. In FY 07, 25 out of 42 reported malfunctions of the machine gun were due to improper setting of H&T. To date in FY 08, improper setting of H&T has been responsible for 44 out of 63 reported malfunctions. Many of these malfunctions have resulted in serious injuries including the loss of fingers, shrapnel wounds, burns, and fractures. This does not include the loss of manpower, degraded unit readiness and destruction or damage to the machine gun.

NCOs must ensure our Soldiers:

Are trained in preparing the M2 machine gun for use, including correct setting of H&T.

Verify correct H&T after assembly, before firing, and after replacing the barrel. Failure to follow the step-by-step procedures of TM 9-1005-213-10 (with Change 2, dated 2 February 2007), Work Package (WP) 0005 and WP 0006, will result in ruptured cartridge cases and damage to the machine gun and may result in death or injury to the gunner or gun crew.

Use proper H&T gage and verify that the gage is in good condition. Gages for the M2 and M3 (aircraft mounted) .50-caliber weapons systems are not interchangeable. Soldiers must ensure they use the proper gage for the weapon system on which they are setting the H&T. To ensure accuracy the gage must have a current calibration and must not be bent, rusted or pitted.

Are trained to immediately stop firing at the first sign of a timing or headspace malfunction. That they clear the weapon and ensure proper H&T if they experience a stoppage or malfunction during firing that produces a ruptured or bulged cartridge case, or notice the timing of the weapon becoming faster or slower.

To eliminate the need for users to set H&T, PM Soldiers Weapons is developing two versions of the M2 machine gun: a "quick-change" barrel, to be fielded in April 2010, and a lightweight variant (half of the current M2 weight) which will augment the M2 with a fielding date of 2012. Both configurations will have fixed H&T that direct support personnel will set, eliminating the need for adjustments by Soldiers in the field.

The M2 machine gun is a valuable and heavily used weapon in the southwest Asia Theater. The proper handling and use of an assigned weapon and assigned crew served weapons are basic Soldier skills. All NCOs are responsible for ensuring that each Soldier assigned to operate these weapon systems knows the proper procedures for preparing them for use, receives thorough training in the application of those procedures, and follows them in detailed order, each and every time they employ the M2 or M3 machine gun. Only through such conscientious leadership actions can the Army reverse and eliminate this accident trend.

Leaders, let's make certain our Soldiers are properly trained and led. Army Strong! Hooah!