By Lt. Col. Martin O'DonnellNovember 29, 2017
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) is the first unit to receive the Army's new Modular Handgun System that began fielding the M17 and M18 pistols, Nov 28.
"This is another 101st first," said Maj. Gen. Andrew P. Poppas, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) commander. "Our 75-year legacy is full of landmark moments like this."
The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) received its shipment of more than 2,000 M17 and M18 handguns, Nov. 17, and unpacked, inventoried, inspected and test fired a portion of the pistols, Nov. 27.
REACTION TO MODULAR HANDGUN SYSTEM
Poppas, along with Command Sgt. Maj. Todd W. Sims, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) senior enlisted leader, Brig. Gen. John W. Brennan, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) deputy commanding general for operations, Brig. Gen. K. Todd Royar, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) deputy commanding general for support and 25 Soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, fired the M17 at the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) indoor range after receiving preliminary marksmanship instruction the day prior.
"It is an easy, smooth-firing weapon," said Poppas.
A sentiment echoed by others who fired the MHS.
"It is easier to fire and simpler to operate," said Sgt. Matthew J. Marsh, a 1st Brigade Combat Team Soldier. "The pistol felt very natural in my hand. I am excited to take my experience back to my unit and share it with my Soldiers."
The 1st Brigade Combat Team is the first 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) unit to field the M17.
"We are proud to be the first unit to be fielded this new handgun," said Col. Derek K. Thomson, 1st Brigade Combat Team commander, who observed the fielding. "Our Soldiers have always been at the cutting edge of battle, so it's fitting they are the first to fire alongside these leaders today."
Marsh shared Thomson's pride.
"I never thought I would be one of the first ones to field a new piece of [Army] equipment," said Marsh. "It is a tremendous honor for my battalion and brigade, this division and me."
More expansive, battalion and brigade-level fielding initiatives will begin across the division in the coming weeks.
REPLACING M9 WITH MHS
According to the Army, the MHS program is the first in a line of modernization efforts that the service will pursue over the next few years.
"The world has changed since the strength and resilience of this division was forged during the maelstrom of World War II," said Poppas. "In order to maintain our decisive edge, we must continue to outpace our potential adversaries with more lethal capabilities, from the modular handgun system we fielded today to the innovative and adaptive air assault concepts, equipment and training the 101st continues to perfect."
Over the next decade, the Army will distribute the MHS to all units.
The M17 replaces the M9 pistol, the standard Army sidearm since 1986. The M18 is a compact version of the M17.
"That's pretty dated technology," said Lt. Col. Steven Power, project manager Soldier Weapons, individual weapons product manager. "The specific performance improvements from MHS over the M9 include better accuracy, tighter dispersion, and better ergonomics, which combined result in a far more lethal pistol."
PM SW, located at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, is part of Program Executive Office Soldier at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, which is the organization responsible for developing, acquiring, fielding and sustaining equipment for the Army.
The new handguns also have an external safety, self-illuminating sights for low-light conditions, an integrated rail for attaching enablers and an Army standard suppressor conversion kit to attach an acoustic/flash suppressor.
The M17 and M18 pistols are manufactured by Sig Sauer, who earned the $580 million contract to produce the weapons in January after winning the Army and Air Force's modular handgun competition.
VISIT FROM CHIEF OF STAFF AND SENATOR
Gen. Mark A. Milley, Army chief of staff, and U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who were visiting the installation, were also on hand for the event. Afterwards, both visited the Currahee Memorial, a monument honoring the 506th Infantry Regiment, a unit that Milley and Cotton were previously assigned.
Milley also met with Poppas, held a leadership forum and awarded six Soldier's Medals.
Separately, Cotton had lunch with Soldiers from his state, held a town hall meeting and received briefings on airspace command and control.
One of 18 U.S. Army divisions and the world's only air assault division, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) exists to fight and win our Nation's wars. Its mission is to provide unmatched expeditionary land forces via rotary-wing aircraft to seize and hold key terrain after forcibly entering a hostile area, or to conduct other military operations anywhere in the world in support of unified combatant commanders.