FORT PICKETT, Va. — Virginia National Guard cavalry Soldiers provided vehicle crew evaluators for their active-duty counterparts from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, during gunnery training Jan. 15 – 26, 2019, at Fort Pickett, Virginia.
Soldiers assigned to the Portsmouth-based 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team provided the evaluation support for the 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division as they conducted crew-served gunnery ranges with multiple vehicles and weapons systems.
The Fort Bragg squadron came to Fort Pickett because of the advantages the facility provides, especially the Multi-Purpose Range Complex.
“The reason we came to Pickett is it provides the ranges, space and also the time on the ranges that’s a little harder to get at Fort Bragg,” said squadron commander Lt. Col. Jonathan Hartsock. “The MPRC range is better than any range we’re going to have available.”
Commander of the 5-73rd’s Bravo Troop, Capt. Mitchell Myers, echoed Hartsock’s compliments about Fort Pickett’s range capabilities.
“Because Fort Bragg is primarily focused on light infantry, we don’t have an MPRC there,” said Myers. “They’re building one now, but it’s not finished yet.”
In addition to the ranges, the VNG evaluators from the 2-183rd helped the active-duty cavalry crews get certified.
“We brought in the NCOs and officers from the 183rd to give us an external evaluation of our gunnery,” said Hartsock. “We know they have expertise, especially when it comes to gunnery and marksmanship.”
The active-duty squadron conducted crew-served gunnery ranges using multiple vehicles and shooting weapons systems including the M240 machine gun, .50-caliber heavy machine guns and the MK19 grenade launcher. During the live-fire training, the evaluators from the 2-183rd were watching closely, making sure crews followed protocol and procedure.
“A big part of gunnery is crew commands, making sure the right commands are being said at the right time, in the right order inside of the vehicle,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Brooks, one of the Saber Squadron’s evaluators.
“We have a lot of new crews, so this helps our gunners learning to be gunners,” said 5-73rd’s Staff Sgt. Brittany Wildman. “It’s been a great experience, challenging our gunners. Rather than just sitting in a set area, we’re able to drive through and actually experience what gunnery would be like.”
“We’re trying to leverage them and their experience as much as we can,” said Myers. “We spend a lot of time focusing on other things, like jumping out of airplanes. These guys just have a lot more experience shooting from this platform. They’re able to help bring some that knowledge and that experience to our guys.”
The Saber Soldiers are benefitting from the partnership too.
“We can partner up with these guys and we can learn some things from them, they can learn some things from us, and that keeps us fresh,” said Brooks.
The 10-member team of VNG evaluators all received medals from Hartsock at the end of training, in appreciation for the service they provided. In return, the 2-183rd’s commander, Maj. Brian M. Gallavan, presented Hartsock with a plaque in appreciation of the two squadrons’ partnership.