CAMP CASEY, REPUBLIC OF KOREA- Master Gunner instructors from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, led a class of hopeful Master Gunner School candidates on gunnery training strategies and weapon systems of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and M1A3 Abrams tank platforms Jan. 16-26.
When the brigade commander and command sergeant major want a Sabot Academy while deployed to the Republic of Korea, brigade Master Gunners Sgt. 1st Class Javier Reyes and Sgt. 1st Class Donald Fermaint transformed commander's intent into a scholastic and hands-on training Academy for 30 Soldiers.
The Sabot Academy is a 2-week period of instruction designed to prepare Soldiers for the rigorous 8-week course at Fort. Benning, Ga. With the school's high attrition rate, a focus on hands-on instruction gives Soldiers the confidence and knowledge base to improve their chances of earning the title, "Master Gunner."
During the first week, the Soldier is instructed in foundational material dubbed Common Core, and after successful comprehension, transitions into Bradley or Tank platform specific subject matter the following week.
Entering the classroom, Soldiers are intently assembling and disassembling weapons or watching their peers studying the intricacies of the weapon. Removing and assembling the smallest parts of the weapon's components, Soldiers acquire a holistic understanding of the weapon and its capabilities.
Staff Sgt. Arturo Solano, Master Gunner, HHC 1-5 Cav, instructed 30-level weapon's maintenance, part of common core's general overview of mounted machine gun, main gun, and anti-tank guided missile vehicle (ATGM) platforms basics.
Solano explains a Master Gunner is the subject matter expert, designing all ranges based on planning, ammo allocation and knowing the platform's weapon systems.
"Having a Master Gunner in the unit means you have a subject matter expert for each weapon systems from the M4 to the highest caliber weapon, a tank," said Solano. "Master Gunners can plan ranges accordingly and can resource ammo properly, so the range runs smoothly. We train skills to be proficient in combat."
Sgt. 1st Class Allen Parsons, B. Co 1-9 Master Gunner, explained before the establishment of the Sabot Academy, soldiers prepared for Master Gunner School through their company Master Gunner. The brigade consolidated instructors, creating a comparable curriculum potential candidates will experience.
"Our goal is to give the best possible candidates a taste and good knowledge base of how it will be when they go to Master Gunner School," said Parsons. Since the school has such a high fail rate, any schooling we can give them to help prepare them before they go will help them set them up for success."
Parsons says each level Master Gunner has a different part when it comes to preparing for gunnery and preparing crews as well as troubleshooting tanks. Being the subject matter expert involves setting up training programs to get crews through gunnery skills testing and into live fire.
Sean Hussey, tank commander, Alpha Company 1-9 Cav, volunteered for the Sabot Academy because he wants to be a subject matter expert on this platform and have the knowledge to pass down to his soldiers.
"I love it. It's challenging knowing the technical requirements verbatim," said Hussey.
The number of responsibilities of the Master Gunner was surprising to Sgt. Hussey. He said going through the Common Core; he realized a Master Gunner begins planning a gunnery six months out and has everything set before a unit goes to the range.
"There is a lot more involved than I previously thought," said Hussey.
After successful completion of the Sabot Academy, Soldiers have the opportunity to enroll in the Master Gunner School after the brigade redeploys from the Republic of Korea in March.