By Jeff Crawley, Fort Sill TribuneJune 1, 2017
FORT SILL, Okla. (June 1, 2017) -- The Army is training maneuver (ground) Soldiers to become short-range air defense (SHORAD) warriors through a five-week program at Fort Sill.
Twenty-four Soldiers whose military occupational specialties (MOS) included infantry, logistics, fueling, and long range air defense, completed a pilot course May 25, where they learned to use the shoulder-launched Stinger missile. The Soldiers came from Fort Sill; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Benning, Ga.; and Fort Bragg, N.C.
Having this weapon system ingrained with maneuver troops will protect the Soldiers from air threats, said Maj. Jimmy Chen, 2nd Battalion, 6th Air Defense Artillery executive officer.
"This is a combat multiplier for maneuver forces, which don't always have the benefit of air defense attached to them because there are so few (air defenders)," Chen said. "With this training we're bringing air defense to them."
The Stinger weapon system is a two-Soldier operation with a team chief, who identifies targets, and a gunner, who launches the missile. The "Stingermen" will operate as part of brigade combat teams and smaller units, Chen said. The heat seeking missile can be used against aircraft and drones up to four kilometers away.
The normal training time to learn air defense artillery is seven weeks on the Avenger (a mobile air defense artillery weapon) and Stinger; and 10 weeks on Counter - Rocket, Artillery and Mortars, or C-RAM, said instructor Staff Sgt. Juan Gonzalez, B Battery, 2-6th ADA, who instructs on all three systems.
The course began with an overview of the Stinger weapon system, covered Identification Friend or Foe (IFF), and moved to visual aircraft recognition, or VACR, Gonzalez said.
The students went through a Stinger missile simulation dome during the second and third weeks of instruction, Chen said. The dome provides virtually a 360-degree view of terrain and sky, with a variety of fast-moving hostile and friendly aircraft entering the airspace within the Stingerman's view.
The training continued with the checking and maintenance of the equipment, Gonzalez said.
"Then we get into fighting positions," Gonzalez said. There was no live firing of Stingers during the training.
Student Pvt. Evan Brazier, B/3-6th ADA, who is a long range air defense artilleryman (Patriot missile) said using SHORAD is a different mindset.
"Being a Stingerman is very challenging, and a lot different than the MOS that I've been trained on, which is more working with computers," Brazier said.
He said he found the VACR to be the most difficult part of the training.
"It's hard to look through a pair of binoculars and identify aircraft, most of them look the same," he said. "It's hard to tell what's a friendly and what's not."
Gonzalez said one of the most challenging things for the maneuver Soldiers was to keep looking toward the sky instead of just scanning the terrain.