By Wendy Brown
Fort Bliss Garrison Public AffairsOROGRANDE, N.M. - Soldiers assigned to the 1st Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division, honed their gunnery skills on the AH-64 Apache helicopter at Range 83 here April 16-30.
"There is no more important training that we're going to do all year than this gunnery training," said Lt. Col. Daniel Artino, commander, 1st Bn., 501st Av. Regt., CAB, 1st AD. "This makes qualified air crews capable of going out and deploying the Apache the way it was designed to be deployed."
Gunnery training is how the battalion produces fully qualified, ready combat crews to conduct combat mission essential tasks, Artino said.
Pilots assigned to the "Iron Dragons" qualified on 30 mm guns, 2.75-inch Folding-Fin Aerial Rockets and Hellfire air-to-surface missiles, said Capt. Christopher Brooke, assistant S-3 in the battalion's plans and operations section. While the 30 mm guns and rockets were live, the pilots used simulated missiles.
In all, 19 crews, with two pilots apiece, qualified on the weapon systems, Brooke said.
One by one, Apache crews flew in front of the Range 83 tower to qualify on the weapons during training April 23. The battalion has 12 gunnery tables, and they were working on Tables III through V, which involved daytime shooting.
"Our master gunner will grade their tapes and say that they've actually engaged things directly, they've been safe the entire time, using the right procedures, and once they're qualified on those, they'll move onto the night section and that's their Table VI," Brooke said.
The Apaches have technology that allows the master gunner to know everything that has gone on within the aircraft during the training, Brooke said.
"When the master gunner grades the tape, they actually can see what exactly the pilots were looking at," Brooke said. "(The master gunner can see) which weapons system they're engaging with, how efficiently they worked as a team and if they were doing the right thing, making the right calls, saying the right things to engage the target."
Although Table VI is an annual qualification, the battalion holds a gunnery once a quarter so Soldiers who might be away at schools or a rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, will always have a time to qualify, Brooke said.
While the training is vital for the pilots, however, a whole range of Soldiers who stay on the ground also receive valuable training, Artino said.
Everyone from fuelers, armament personnel, headquarters personnel, plans and operations personnel to food service and sustainment personnel benefit, Artino said.
"Everybody gets exercise in a training event like this," Artino said. "We never focus on one part of our organization. Everybody trains together."