By Pfc. Jared S. Eastman, 1HBCT Public AffairsFebruary 5, 2009
FORT STEWART, GA --The silent behemoths whine into life with the hum of well-greased gears as the four Paladins point up into the cloudy sky. Inside each of the great beasts, four Soldiers, with every muscle tense, wait for the earth-shattering crack, the delayed boom and the convulsions that will pass thrugh their bodies.
"It's an adrenaline rush," said Sgt. Corey Monroe, Paladin Gunner, Alpha Battery. 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team. "It's one of those experiences that you will never forget and you could never do as a civilian."
The Paladins completed two one-round missions followed by one six-round mission throughout which the four Paladins pummeled the impact area as they reloaded as fast as possible.
"Today went very smooth," said Monroe, looking at the Paladin behind him and grinning. "We're trying to get certified so we can put out real big bullets when we go back across the water."
As the 1/41st trained on Paladins, 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor qualified on vehicles of a different nature at Red Cloud Range Hotel: Bradleys, and a plethora of them.
"Quite a bit of effort goes into moving all the Soldiers out into the field," said 1st Lt. Timothy Neagle, Fire Support officer for Alpha Co., 3/69th Armor, as he yells above the crack of the Bradleys' guns. "All the maintenance that goes into the Bradleys, wheeled vehicles that come out, maintenance crews come out, medics and cooks."
Qualification with the Bradley can be difficult, involving a "sneaking" movement in which the Bradley drives up a small hill to make the target visible and then fires before heading back down.
"I'm definitely learning a lot," said Neagle. "There's many experienced Soldiers and officers that have been deployed, so I try to keep my ears open and learn what I can from them and all the training we're doing out here. Every time we train, we want to know more than when we came out. That's definitely the case this time."
Many of the crew members were new not only to the unit but the Army as well.
"Today definitely went better than last night," said Staff Sgt. Joseph Picon, a section leader for Alpha Co. 3/69th Armor. "I have a new crew, so being in charge and having a crew that has never been on a Bradley is kind of difficult. So last night was a little rough, but today is one hundred times better than last night."
The struggles of the night before did not dampen Picon's attachment to Bradleys however. "I love my Bradley. I love shooting the Bradley. There's no other feeling in the world like it; it's a lot of power. So whenever you can take it out and use it to its full potential, it's a great feeling."