In the gunner’s seat of a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, Pvt. Colby Anderson, an administrative specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 85th Civil Affairs Brigade, listens to last-minute safety instructions before the tower gives the command to identify and engage targets down range.
The calm of the summer day shatters when Anderson presses the trigger of the M2 .50-caliber machine gun, marking the start of a weapons familiarization range for Soldiers assigned to HHC, 85th CA Bde., May 29 at Elm Knob Machine Gun Range on Fort Hood.
Being at an actual range as opposed to the indoor, climate-controlled, pneumatic-powered weapons range of the electronic skills trainer on post offers Soldiers a deeper understanding and appreciation of weapons systems.
“The big difference is,” said 1st Sgt. David Carr, the HHC senior enlisted member, “the actual feel of the percussion when the gun fires, adjusting to the targets out there, doing barrel changes – it’s real world training.”
According to Sgt 1st Class Bryan Miller, an automations noncommissioned officer in the brigade, junior Soldiers were the target audience.
“A lot of the junior Soldiers, once they come from basic training, that is the only time they have touched these crew-served weapons, so to bring them out to the range and let them fire gets them better familiarized and confident behind the weapon,” Miller said.
The learning curve for most was easily achieved through coaching and instruction.
“We had Soldiers that had never fired these weapons and they learned how to adjust fire, going from 500- to 700-meter targets. They were engaging targets and knocking them down,” Carr said.
Even as troop levels decline in Afghanistan and deployment rotations slow, maintaining and developing Soldier skills continues to be a top priority.
“Every Soldier has to have combat skills for convoys. We have a lot of administrative and logistic specialists,” Carr said. “And they will be on the roads if we deploy, doing a lot of convoys, so it’s good training.”
As the day closed, Anderson reflected on his experiences.
“Before today, I didn’t have much experience other than firing the 240B at basic training,” Anderson said. “Now I have the confidence in shooting these powerful weapons like the .50-cal. You see it in so many movies and when you shoot it and are behind it, firing live rounds, you’re like, ‘yes’ – it’s a shock to your body.”