SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- In an Army-wide effort to keep Soldiers equipped with the latest weapons and technology, equipment and doctrine constantly receive updates and revisions. Units then receive these updates through fielding distribution and training.
The fielding of new and upgraded equipment is typically part of this process, allowing Soldiers to familiarize themselves with the weapon systems they will use in combat in order to build confidence and expertise in both their skills and the weapons alike.
Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, "Warriors," 25th Infantry Division, attended familiarization courses for the M2A1 machine gun and the new M320A1 grenade launcher Feb. 7-10 here. The brief training courses covered the upgrades to the M2 machine gun, and introduced Warrior brigade Soldiers to the Army's new grenade launcher, the M320A1.
The curricula for both courses provided about a day's worth of instruction, said Brett Little, a training specialist for Tank-automotive and Armaments Command out of Warren, Mich. The instruction focused on the basic operation for each weapon, Little added.
"We're teaching the characteristics and basic maintenance and operation," Little said. "We're not showing these Soldiers how to shoot, but instead how to effectively use the weapon."
The instruction also covered the revisions to the M2A1 machine gun over its predecessor, the M2, Little said.
"The M2A1 makes the operator's life a lot easier," Little said. "There's no more headspace and timing, it's already set for them. The barrel is also a quick-change barrel and can be done in less than 30 seconds."
The M320A1 grenade launcher has many improvements over the previous model, the M203. The system has upgraded day and night-vision sights and can even function as a stand-alone system as opposed to the M203 which needs a host weapon to mount to, Little said.
Spc. Blake Rogers, an infantryman with the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment personal security detachment, added that the ease of use adds a level of comfort to operating the weapon, further increasing Soldier proficiency.
"The ambidextrous safety switch is handy in that it is easily accessible no matter which hand the shooter prefers to fire with," Rogers said. "The pistol grip is similar in that you don't necessarily have to change your firing hand. The barrel also opens outward to remove the empty shell casing instead of sliding forward."
Sgt. 1st Class Gery Bruce, a training specialist with TACOM, said that he hopes the familiarization courses add to that level of comfort so that when the weapons are employed in combat situations, the Soldiers can utilize them accurately and effectively.
"We want them to have a working knowledge of the weapon systems and all its components," Bruce said. "We want them to be comfortable knowing how to operate the weapons so that when they take these weapons to the range and load ammunition into them, they can focus more on their fundamentals and putting rounds on target."
Little said that the units that have received their M320A1s are scheduled to have their first hands-on marksmanship training on Feb. 21 when they will fire training rounds at a range on Schofield Barracks.
In addition to the proficiency in firing the weapons, Little said that the course gives 2nd BCT Soldiers the ability to pass on their skills to their team and squad mates, increasing the units' lethalality down to the fire team level.
With training underway, familiarization courses like the M2A1 and M320A1 courses yield benefits on multiple levels by promoting safety and efficiency with new and enhanced weaponry.