FORT PICKETT, Va. – Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers from across the commonwealth trained on the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station Aug. 17-21.The course was designed to familiarize Soldiers with the M153 CROWS, an externally mounted weapons control system that allows the gunner to remain inside the vehicle, protected by armor while remotely firing various crew-served weapons.“The CROWS keeps the Soldiers inside safe,” said Donald Nelson, a contractor and instructor with Tank Automotive Command in Warren, Michigan. “They can identify and lase their target, giving them a distance to where the target is, allowing the weapon station to either elevate or depress for the strike of the round.”The system can be mounted with four weapons systems, including the 40 mm MK19 grenade launcher, the M2 Browning 50-caliber machine gun, the M240 Bravo machine gun and the M249 machine gun. It can also be mounted on multiple vehicle platforms.The CROWS system is also equipped with four-axis targeting and color day and thermal cameras, which enable the operator to acquire and engage targets day and night while stationary or moving.Soldiers began the course with a basic introduction, safety description and familiarization with the CROWS operation. They then moved on to weapons configuration and installation.Soldiers learned to bore sight and zero the weapons system before moving on to hands-on training with driving and simulation exercises.“This is essential for us,” said 1st Lt. Walter Best, a platoon leader with the Fredericksburg-based 229th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. “We have three CROWS systems we are signed for that my squad has and we need people who know how to use them.”The course is designed to allow the Soldiers to learn the system and carry that knowledge back to their unit.“The whole idea is to train the trainer,” Best said. “Anybody who goes through this course, at the end, should be able to give a course and help train up the platoon or company. That is the goal at the end of this.”Courses of this type, along with knowledgeable, hands-on instructors, are paramount to keeping Soldiers and Guard members ready to accomplish their ongoing mission.Hopefully, by the end of this week, all of the Soldiers will have a good working knowledge of how this piece of equipment operates safely,” Nelson said. “That’s our main focus.”