FORT BRAGG, N.C.- It's not everyday that Paratroopers have the opportunity to test and critique new weapons before they're even an arms-length from the arms room.
But, recently on Nov. 5, Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division got a rare chance to evaluate several new weapons systems that they could be using during a deployment in the near future.
"The military is taking these weapons and putting the weapons in the Soldiers hands," said Command Sgt. Major Thomas Cappel, the command sergeant major of the 82nd Abn. Div. "They're letting the Soldier make the decision of what weapon he needs on the battlefield."
At the range the Program Executive Office Soldier provided the Paratroopers with a lighter .50 Caliber Machine Gun, weighing 40 pounds; several long range sniper rifles; a revamped 12 gauge shotgun; and a new grenade launcher that can be attached to an M4 Carbine or stand alone as its own weapon, to test fire.
"That thing is super cool," said Spc. Shawn Steinberger, a Paratrooper from Company C, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, after firing the stand alone XM 320 Grenade Launcher, the model that could possibly replace the 203 grenade launcher.
"I like it because you can actually utilize the range finder by itself so it's not so cumbersome and bulky," Steinberger explained. "But that thing is definitely cool."
Another weapon that the Paratroopers seemed to really like was the new 12 Gauge Modular Accessory Shotgun System.
"It's a great system because it integrates an M4 with a shot gun or it has a stand alone system, it makes it a lot easier than carrying the shotgun on your back," said Sgt. Joseph Cervay, a Cleveland native.
"It has a lot less kick than a normal shotgun," said Cervay, from the command group of Division Headquarters.
Cervay wasn't the only one impressed with the MASS System. Cappel, who ventured out to the range to observe the Paratroopers test firing, mentioned that he was impressed with the system as well.
While at the range Cappel, a Rockingham, N.C., native, took advantage of the opportunity to fire the new weapons. He seemed to favor the Common Remotely Operated Weapons System, which allows Soldiers to control various long range weapons with a joystick.
"I think the CROWS are excellent weapon systems that we need on the battlefield," said Cappel.
Cappel also took notice of the enjoyment that the Paratroopers were having while test firing the weapons. He pointed out, over the never ending gunfire, that regardless of the system that the Paratroopers were firing they were still getting good hands on experience.
"They're out here, they're firing weapons and they're having fun while doing it," Cappel added.