OKINAWA, Japan – The Patriot Master Gunner Course is currently being held in Japan for the first time.
Air Defenders across the Indo-Pacific region are gaining an advanced understanding of air defense operations, standards, and doctrine during PMG class 701-21 hosted by the 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment at Kadena Air Base from April 19 to June 28, 2021.
"To be a Master Gunner means you are a technical and tactical expert," said Command Sgt. Maj. Kellen C. Rowley, 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade senior enlisted advisor, in his remarks during a class visit. "Patriot Master Gunners are trained in methodology. You are expected to know the standard and be the person in your unit to enforce it and make sure that teams are qualifying correctly. The badge you earn after completing this course is an indicator to commanders and Soldiers to heed your advice regarding training and employment of air defense systems."
The course is demanding and critical for air defenders around the world, with this class consisting of students from the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, Hawaii; 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, Japan; 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, Republic of Korea; 1-1 ADA, Okinawa, Japan; 14th Missile Defense Battery, Kyotango, Japan; and Echo Battery, Air Defense Artillery Regiment, Guam, which will directly enhance the knowledge, training and expertise of air defense operations in the pacific region upon graduation.
“I’m attending the PMG course to gain a level of knowledge to take back to my unit and push my Soldiers to the envelope, get them ready and trained to defend our mission here in Japan,” said Staff Sgt. Roberto Maldonado, PMG student and Patriot fire control enhanced operator, Battery D, 1-1 ADA. “We are currently on cycling missions and it’s important to have the readiness of our Soldiers at the highest level possible and possess the expert skills necessary to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”
The PMG course not only develops expert skills, but it also provides a comprehensive understanding of operations, planning, and airspace management. The course challenges air defender competencies using realistic scenarios, hands-on training, examinations, and practical exercises, to evaluate their skills, knowledge, and attributes.
“The goal is for the students to successfully graduate the course and be able to provide their commander with the tools necessary to train Soldiers the correct way which coincides with the commander’s intent,” said Sgt. 1st Class Gregorio Estrada, PMG lead instructor from 3rd Battalion, 6th Air Defense Artillery Regiment located at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. “They will be Master Gunners, subject-matter experts who people look to when they need to know what right looks like and provide the right answers.”
To counter the course load and rigorous academic demands of the PMG course, instructors have partnered up with one of the newest services also being provided in Japan for the first time – the US Army Japan Ready and Resilient Performance Center. James Gallagher and Jenny Hennig, both Master Resiliency Trainer performance experts with USARJ’s R2PC at Okinawa, work with PMG students regularly to maximize their study habits and knowledge retainability to counter the rigorous course load and increase their chances of passing.
"We are here as an extra resource to Soldiers during breaks and lunch to assess and enhance their study habits," said Hennig. "We provide customized performance training that enables Soldiers to sustain personal readiness, enhance resilience, and optimize human performance."
Historically, the average graduation rate for the PMG course is about 65% according to PMG instructors. Experts hope to improve the graduation rate with PMG Class 701-21 taking advantage of this resource.
"Academic support is available anywhere the 32 R2 sites are located, not only for Master Gunner courses, but any Army education training," said Gallagher. "Our Japan offices at Camp Zama and Tori Station recently opened January 2021, and we are excited to serve the Soldiers here in Japan for the first time ever."
By course end, students are required to design and implement defense architecture to employ air defense weapon systems using the strategies of the contemporary operating environment, such as Airspace Management, Operations, Planning, and Evaluation, plus identify the tasks to employ the Patriot weapon system and fire the Patriot missile.
“As part of the course the air defenders will conduct a block of instruction on Patriot Missile Reload,” said Estrada. “As a master gunner, part of the training is to learn how to train and evaluate crews and this provides the opportunity to watch the crew team in action and discuss the operations they review in class.”
The 94th AAMDC, the higher headquarters to all units in attendance and course sponsor, is optimistic about the future of air defense in the region.
“[We] appreciate all the support getting the PMG-MTT [Mobile Training Team] into Japan,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Neil Sartain, 94th AAMDC senior enlisted advisor in a statement on Twitter. “It is so very important to the professional development of our noncommissioned officers. Even more important to the readiness of their units. Good luck to you all. I want to see you all at the graduation ceremony! First Line of Defense!”