FORT BENNING, Ga. (March 20, 2013) -- The first pilot course for Mobile Gun System master gunners finished Tuesday with a graduation on Harmony Church. The course is designed to offer a more efficient and cost-effective training option for Stryker units who need MGS master gunners.

After the MGS was added to the Stryker family of vehicles, Soldiers looking to become master gunners had to attend an 11-week tank master gunner course followed by a six-week transitional course focusing solely on the system. Through the pilot, Soldiers with no prior gunnery qualifications can graduate in 8 1/2 weeks and return to their unit as proficient MGS master gunners.

Simply put, the pilot provides aspiring master gunners who don't work with M1A1 or M1A2 Abrams a more feasible solution to achieve the R8 skill identifier, said 1st Sgt. John Franz, commandant of the Tank Master Gunner School, M Troop, 3rd Squadron, 16th Cavalry Regiment.

"It was unfair to try to send them to Tank Master Gunner School first and make them an expert on a platform they'd never been on," he said. "Really it wasn't possible. So the commandants directed us to stand up a stand-alone master gunner course. We put a lot of time and effort into selecting the right pieces of material to teach them. There will be a couple of adjustments as far as how long each one of the classes are, but overall I think it's going to fit in the 8 1/2 weeks."

The second iteration of the course begins this summer with a third and final pilot to follow. Changes and lessons learned will be incorporated after each class. Students and instructors are both part of the after-action review process.

Staff Sgt. Scott Camp, attached to C Company, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Fort Wainwright, Alaska, said the course offered "outstanding training" that helped him better familiarize himself with the Stryker vehicle and how to employ it tactically in a combat scenario.
Staff Sgt. Jason Motes, F Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, Vilseck, Germany, said he believed the pilot was effective. Motes, who volunteered to attend the course, will deploy to Afghanistan as a MGS master gunner.

"I will actually be downrange in probably the next four or five months," he said, "and if we have signed for MGSes like we're supposed to, I'm going to have to put everything I've learned here into effect."

The course does include a lot of information in a short amount of time, Camp said.

The first class had a 50 percent attrition rate, which Franz said was common for gunnery school given the quantity of instruction and time constraints. But overall, he feels the first pilot was successful.

After all three pilots conclude, an approved program of instruction for the Mobile Gun System Master Gunner Course will be submitted to the Armor School commandant for consideration.