FORT CHAFFEE, Ark. - The Army has a variety of weapons and vehicles Soldiers train to fire and drive, but some are a bit more exclusive.
The 449th Engineer Company and Forward Support Company, 478th Engineer Battalion trained on some of the less common weapons and vehicles during Operation River Assault at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas.
Vehicles comprise of the M9 Armored Combat Earthmover, the M60A1 Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge and the M113 Armored Personnel Carrier. Weapons include hand grenades, Mossberg 500 shotguns, Mark 19 40 mm grenade machine gun, M2 machine gun, M240 machine guns and demolitions.
The shotgun range, held July 19, was one of the more exciting ranges for the Soldiers.
"I loved it," said Sgt. Lindsay Schwab, a track mechanic from Cincinnati, with Forward Support Company, 478th Engineer Battalion. "It was a little harder than what I thought as far as the recoil goes, but I liked it. I would definitely do it again."
To qualify on the shotgun, Soldiers fired from five positions, including standing exposed and behind a barricade, kneeling, and crouching. They received 10 rounds, two per target, which contain six to eight pellets. Qualification consisted of placing 16 pellets in a silhouetted target.
"Shotguns are part of ballistic breaching so it's important to have people qualified on how to use it," said Staff Sgt. Ryan Wood, a platoon sergeant from Cincinnati, attached to the 449th Engineer Company. "It's also a weapon issued to a lot of units. It's primarily used in security as a gate guard and things of that nature."
Ballistic breaching is the use of a slug to penetrate a metal door or anything thicker than can be breached manually. The shotgun is used to destroy the hinges or a deadbolt.
Wood said many of the Soldiers probably hadn't qualified with a shotgun and thought only a few ever used the weapon in the Army during urban operations training. While the Soldiers may not be experienced with the weapon, Wood is convinced this training is important to build on, even if they don't qualify.
"I know a lot of them aren't going to get it on the first try and unfortunately I don't think we have the rounds to allow a second try," said Wood, "but even if they don't qualify, at least they get their hands on a weapon they haven't shot before and they build a little bit of confidence so maybe next time they get a chance to get it."
The shotgun may not be as easy for beginners as it looks, according to 1st Lt. Aubrey Smoot, a platoon leader from Raleigh, North Carolina attached to the 449th Engineer Company. Smoot said the most difficult part of qualifying with the shotgun as opposed to other weapons is "adjusting for the recoil. If you haven't fired a shotgun recently, it's a stark difference between your M4 [carbine] or your M16 [rifle]."
While the recoil may be challenging for some, others find it's an adrenaline rush.
Schwab said her favorite part of shotgun qualification was "feeling the power of it - the whole recoil and everything."
Wood thinks giving Soldiers training on less common weapons and vehicles encourages the Soldiers.
"Motivation is up. Everyone is having fun. Take shotgun for instance," said Wood. "They are getting a chance to do things. Either shoot a weapon or drive a vehicle they haven't touched before. As long as we can keep that up, they're happy."
The Soldiers should stay happy with more weapon ranges and a demolition later in the week.