With a squeeze of the trigger, a slight puff of white smoke and a shattering boom, the Tube-launched Optically-tracked Wire-guided missile thrusts to speeds of nearly 250 feet per second before demolishing its target down range. Soldiers of 1st Brigade Combat Team's Company D, 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, launched the TOW on Jan. 20 for the first time in years.

"This was the first time in over three years that 1-87 has fired TOW missiles on Fort Drum," said Sgt. 1st Class William Gomez, platoon sergeant for 2nd Platoon, Co. D, 1-87 Infantry. "This was our certification and practice with the TOW before our deployment. This will be one of our primary weapons we use when we deploy."

This anti-tank weapons system has been in service for 40 years with more than 45 armed forces worldwide. It is incorporated on more than 15,000 ground, vehicle and helicopter platforms.
With the TOW missile, the weapons operator views a point on the target through the telescopic sight, which also has thermal capabilities, and continues to view and track the target after the missile has been fired.

For many of the "Dagger" Soldiers, this was the first time they saw the Improvised Target Acquisition System fire a TOW missile. Several Soldiers experienced the exhilaration of pulling the trigger and guiding the missile to the destruction of the target for the first time.

"We had 20 different firers, and 17 of them were first-time firers," Gomez said.

Gomez, whose platoon was in charge of running the range for the day's firing, said all of the Soldiers had a blast firing the missiles.

"This was my first time firing a TOW," said Spc. Deven Merriman, an infantryman with D Company, 1-87 Infantry. "It was awesome."

Even with the temperature below freezing and the ground covered with snow and ice, Soldiers of the heavy weapons company fired 28 TOW missiles down range at a variety of targets.

"At the end of the day, we hit the targets with 20 out of the 28 missiles," Gomez said. "They all did pretty good."

Seeing the younger Soldiers feel the rush of a TOW missile propel down range and annihilate the target was the most rewarding part the day for Gomez.

"It's a lot of fun to watch these young guys," he said. "Everyone wanted to fire more. They all had fun with it."