FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. – Door gunners with Alpha Company, 2-104th General Support Aviation Battalion, 28th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade, practiced air gunnery skills July 21 in the brigade’s first annual training since returning from deployment a year ago.
To be fully qualified, Soldiers must pass aircrew qualification tables four, five and six.
“There is table four, which is a familiarization table. There is table five, which is our practice table. Table six is the aircrew qualification table,” explained Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Smith.
The gunner, or crew chief, must fire 300 rounds during the day and 200 at night with night vision goggles.
“We must train like this to be able to perform all of our mission-essential tasks. Whether it is supporting an air movement or supporting an air assault,” said Smith. “When we go downrange, we are the aircraft’s primary defense when it comes to some threats.”
There are several challenges the crewmembers must face during qualification and training. Some include communication, weather and inexperienced members.
“Like everybody else, we have new people. The challenge is developing their skills as crewmembers in the aircraft and being able to work and integrate pilots,” said Smith. “It is not a one-person job; we operate as a team and as a crew. Getting everyone on the same page can be a challenge.”
While there are dangers that come with every job performed in the Army, anything aviation-related is inherently dangerous.
“We have a lot going on with a helicopter like that. When you add a machine gun that is shooting live rounds, it only complicates things further,” said Smith.
Smith said because of their training, there are no challenges his team cannot overcome. He recommended that anyone interested in working as a crewmember in aviation first learns how to work on a helicopter.
“Once you have a solid maintained background, then come on over to the flight company and fly,” he said.