While the 1st Infantry Division headquarters recently returned from a deployment to Iraq, the division is not relaxing or resting on its laurels. Neither are its brigades, several of which also recently returned from deployments or are currently deployed.

Instead, Maj. Gen. Joseph M. Martin, 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley commanding general, set the "Big Red One" to work on its top priority -- building and maintaining combat readiness throughout all 1st Inf. Div. units and individual Soldiers.

"Our top priority is building readiness," Martin said, "so that we are able to deploy rapidly, conduct operations worldwide and win as part of a joint force while continuing to take care of Soldiers, civilians and family members."

To build and maintain their unit and personal readiness, Soldiers from 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Inf. Div., fired several crew-serve weapon systems on a range at Fort Riley, Kansas, in early November to qualify or recertify on the systems.

The machine gun weapons training is even more critical to the 3rd AHB, 1st Avn. Regt., Soldiers because their primary jobs in the Army is not as a machine gunners. The Soldiers ranged from wheeled vehicle mechanics to orderly room noncommissioned officers in charge.

"For us in the CAB, we don't use them (crew-serve weapons) as often as a ground unit, but we try to get out here every quarter," said Sgt. Michael Burns, petroleum supply specialist, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st CAB. "We get out here to get these guys some trigger time. We want to get the new Soldiers familiar with the weapons and get the ones that have been here for a while requalified on the weapon systems as a crew."

The 1st Inf. Div. is building combat-ready forces through four key tasks -- building and maintaining mission readiness, leader development, teamwork and caring for our service members, civilians, families and retirees.

"When we talk about mission readiness, we look at four components: personnel, supply, equipment maintenance and training," Martin said. "Over the next year, this division will increase individual Soldier readiness, enforce Command Discipline Programs and maintain our equipment to standard."
Command Discipline Programs are systems designed to ensure equipment is properly maintained and ready to be used when needed.

"We live in a dynamic and dangerous world, and future conflicts, like those of the past, will be resolved on land," the commanding general said. "However, the location, scale and duration of these conflicts is impossible to predict. Because of that, our combat forces must be ready to 'fight tonight' while we continue to provide world-class training, leader development and community that supports and cares for service members, civilians, family members and retirees."

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One of the Soldiers firing the M2A1 .50-caliber Browning machine gun for the first time was Pfc. Austin Argo, a wheeled vehicle mechanic assigned to 3rd AHB, 1st Avn. Regt.

"It felt really good; I feel like now I will be able to use it (machine gun) efficiently," Argo said. "This training is really important because the people out here shooting the weapons are going to be the ones assigned to them. When we get out to the field, you want those people to know how to use them properly and take down targets to save their battle buddies."

While the main focus of the training was for the Soldiers was to qualify with the M2A1 .50-caliber Browning, the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon and the M240B machine guns, the Soldiers also received other training prior to departing for the range.

"This morning we did convoy element training in preparation for leaving the motor pool to come out to the range," Burns said. "We also incorporated casualty evacuation care in case there was an incident. It is a layered training event that we are able to come out and get these guys trained and qualified on the weapons systems as a crew, but we also integrate other aspects of our training into one single event."

Martin said there is no better place to build readiness than Fort Riley.

"This installation's state-of-the-art range facilities and expansive maneuver areas, combined with its unparalleled rail availability and three airfields available for simultaneous use, make it a power projection platform ideal for building and sustaining forces to deploy in defense of our nation and our international allies," he said.