Sunday, September 27, 2009

Theory, Steel Rain, And Being a Weasel

2LT Runyon engages targets with the M240-B. Photo by Author.

About 150,000 rounds of 5.56mm and 7.62mm went down range this week as Bravo Company completed machine gun week. I don't think I've ever seen so much ammunition fired and it was a blast for all of us. Machine guns(MGs), for a lack of a better description, are cool. The week began with classroom instruction on MG Theory. We learned the different ranges of MGs as well as their capabilities, how to employ them, and how they fit in the mission planning process. Anyone who subscribes to the idea of the "dumb, knuckle dragging Infantryman" is clueless. There is allot of thinking and math involved when it comes to putting these weapons into place and even more thinking and math when it comes to calling for fire (CFF). We had CFF classes after MG Theory and learned the different types of artillery and mortars that are only a radio call away. We then learned how to calculate OT Factor and adjust fire as we observe rounds hitting our objective.

Tuesday was more classes on MGs and then a CFF simulation. The CFF simulator is a huge screen almost as large as a movie theater screen with an image of an objective area projected on it. The image matches up to the map on our desk and is calibrated to a pair of binoculars we each had. On the screen were tanks that needed to be destroyed and we went through the sequence of calling for fire over a radio and watched the screen to see where our rounds landed. We then called in the proper adjustments until we were close enough to call over "Fire For Effect" which would bring a whole lot of "Steel Rain" down on the tanks making them explode and burn on the screen. Later that afternoon we went to downtown Columbus to go to the Infantry Warfighters Conference and look at all the new toys different companies are trying to sell the Army. Along the way, Nick Runyon and I ran into our West Point TAC and mentor Major Josh Bookout. We asked about how our Cadet company, the Frogs, were doing and how they were fairing without us. We then got all the other Frogs here at Fort Benning together for a family reunion dinner with MAJ Bookout.

Wednesday we zeroed our MGs and I sighted in the optic and laser on my SAW which I will carry for the remainder of the course. Once sighted we qualified on our guns prior to letting the rest of the platoon shoot to become familiarized with the weapons. We then waited for night to fall to do a night fire with the MGs. The sights and sounds of 12 MGs opening up with tracer rounds lighting up the night is an awesome sight. In the video below you will see streaks of light fly across the screen. Those are red tracer rounds that show the flight of the round as it heads down range.

LTs engage targets during night fire. Video by Author

Thursday was our Support By Fire (SBF) exercise where we would move from a security halt and set up our SBF. The SBF is controlled and led by the Weapons Squad Leader (WSL) or "Weasel." The WSL runs up and down the line controlling the rates of fire and ensuring the guns shift to targets accordingly as the fight develops. The first iteration I was on my SAW and was having a ball knocking down targets with 6-9 round bursts. Even more enjoyable was being the WSL on the second iteration, my first time since being here I would act in a leadership experience. I designated targets for the M240-Bs and SAWs on the line and then told them when to open up. Running back and forth between the gun positions I adjusted rates of fire and called out targets as well as running ammunition between different guns when one would go down or need a barrel change. We did well on both iterations before coming home for the night.

Friday was an 8 mile road march with 40lbs rucks in the morning and then weapons cleaning for the rest of the day. We got released a little early and headed home after an awesome week of training. Next week is all classroom as we learn about joint operations, combined arms tactics, and receive our Ranger Brief. Until then, ATW!

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