By Jack LoudermilkMay 28, 2009
CAMP HOVEY, South Korea -- Soldiers from the 602nd Aviation Support Battalion, USAG-Humphreys, completed their first "Gates of Fire" live-fire training at Hovey's Shea Range, May 20.
"Gates of Fire" is a five-step training program designed to further familiarize Soldiers with their weapons and get them comfortable firing live ammunition while on the move, said 2nd Lt. Peter Smedberg, chemical officer and assistant Battalion training and operations officer.
"We started with a dry-fire exercise in our motor-pool," explained Smedberg. "Gates of Fire" is basically a five-gate exercise. Gates 1 and 2 took place at Humphreys with weapons qualifications. The whole point was to get our sharpshooters and expert marksmen out here, so we had a bunch of qualification ranges. We only brought the best shooters in the battalion."
Smedberg said 40 combat support Soldiers from their Headquarters Support Company arrived at USAG-Casey, May 14, and started Gate 3 training the following day.
Gate 3, he said, consisted of reflexive fire: walking with weapons, shooting, turning, taking a knee (kneeling), taking commands from the tower, and shooting from unfamiliar positions.
"For example," Smedberg explained, "when you take a knee, if you're a righty, you want to kneel on your right knee to shoot. We make them take a left knee, turn and face targets, and shoot from angles they're not use to."
Smedberg said Soldiers going to a range for qualifications shoot from prone-supported and prone-unsupported positions. "On this range," he said, "Soldiers get to walk with weapons and get comfortable while building up to the next gate - Gate 4.
"Gate 4," he said, "consisted of shooting around the corners of a humvee while standing, kneeling, switching positions; just getting comfortable with the weapon. "This adds up to Gate 5; reacting to a near ambush by exiting vehicles and taking fighting positions," he said.
While this type of training may seem standard to Soldiers with combat experience, Smedberg said, "these are not infantry men out here. We provide aviation support for the 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade. They are mechanics and other types of skilled workers, but today they are here learning the skills they may have to use someday when they deploy."
Pfc. Joshua Ciphigaki, originally from Hawaii, works with computers, and said this is his first duty station.
"I've never experienced training like this before," he said, "but I've been enjoying it. This is something I didn't expect to experience here; just being able to fire live ammo in close quarters and using the M-16 aiming scopes. This training is a big help to us. It's not something I've done in Advanced Individual Training or basic training. I don't look forward to being in combat, but I look forward to training in the event I go into combat. I want to be as prepared as possible."
Spc. Jacob Movak-Tibbet, a small arms repairer from California, has already spent 15 months in Iraq with 1st Cavalry Division.
"This is not my first unit," he said, "so I'm familiar with this type of training. This is great training for new Soldiers, and it is a good refresher for those of us who have experienced combat."
Movak-Tibbet said the training is realistic. "In basic training," he explained, "we only fired from the prone position. Here, it's all about movement. It's very fast paced. You have to find cover, communicate with your buddies, make sure you're not going to hit them, and make sure you point in the right direction."
While in Iraq, Movak-Tibbet said he moved to and from many bases on UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters, but was only under fire while in guard towers.
"We did come under fire, but it was nothing like this. In guard towers, we only returned fire," he said.
Smedberg said "Gates of Fire" is part of the battalion's training exercise for the quarter.
This is training we adopted from another brigade. We took it and ran with it, and we're hoping to develop it further. Soon, we're going to execute a convoy live-fire: shooting out of the back of humvees, dismounting and advancing. This is just one step toward our goal of emphasizing marksmanship."