FORT PICKETT, Va. — Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers from across the commonwealth trained on and fielded new small arms and weapons components at Maneuver Training Center Fort Pickett’s New Equipment Training / New Equipment Fielding facility Dec. 7 - 11, 2020, at Fort Pickett, Virginia.
Select Soldiers from all of the VNG’s major strategic commands participated in the week-long training, focusing on modernizing their small arms arsenals.
Soldiers turned in their unit’s M9 service pistols and began training on the new M17 modular pistol. The M17 is replacing the M9 Army-wide, and offers a more lightweight modular handgun with an internal firing mechanism, as opposed to the external hammer of the M9.
Soldiers also trained on the M320A1 grenade launcher, which is replacing the existing M203 grenade launchers. The M320A1, unlike its predecessor, can be fired as a stand-alone weapon or as an attachment on an M4 rifle. The week-long NET/NEF concluded with a live-fire exercise on the M320A1.
Conducting a fielding of thousands of pieces of equipment covering all of the VNG’s MSCs was a monumental task, according to 1st. Lt. Matthew Arnold, operations officer for the NET/NEF.
“This event impacted every MSC in the state, three different program manager teams and the National Guard Bureau,” said Arnold. “Making sure everyone from every organization was tracking the plan and subsequent changes from that was difficult.”
In addition to the new weapons, Soldiers participating in the NET/NEF trained on various weapons components, including the PAIL, an aiming light component for the M17 pistol, new optics and heavy gun tripods.
“This event was different than others because of how many units it impacted and the timeframe which we are working in,” said Arnold. “We issued 19,718 pieces of equipment from weapons to optics to cleaning kits, turned in 2,346 weapons, and trained 216 Soldiers on the new weapons and optics. It is unusual to have this many representatives from so many different units at the same place over the span of a few days.”
With so many pieces to coordinate in such a short timespan, the NET/NEF staff had to be ready for all scenarios.
“With every event, one can only plan and coordinate to a certain extent until it comes down to execution,” Arnold explained. “At that point it’s really just being flexible and ensuring rapid and accurate communication to mitigate any hiccups in the execution.”
The small arms fielding capped a busy 2020 for the NET/NEF, which included integration for a wide range of equipment, including field generators, 48 new flatbed trailers and the M153 Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station, an externally mounted weapons control system that allows the gunner to remain inside the vehicle.
The responsibilities of NET/NEF staff include coordinating shipping, receiving and temporary storage of equipment that is used for fielding and equipment upgrades, as well as working with program managers to ensure that new equipment training is provided to receiving units.
The end result is something Arnold takes pride in.
“The most rewarding part of doing NET/NEF is that I know what I’m doing is helping keep the Virginia Army National Guard on par with the active duty Army,” said Arnold. “It is going to help the Soldiers be more effective in accomplishing their missions in the upcoming mobilizations.”