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NEWS | June 15, 2021

116th IBCT Soldiers train on new recoilless rifle system

By Mike Vrabel Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office

Virginia and Kentucky National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Staunton-based 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team trained on the M3E1 Multi-purpose Anti-armor Anti-personnel Weapon System during a course held at Maneuver Training Center Fort Pickett’s New Equipment Training / New Equipment Fielding facility June 1 - 11, 2021, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. 

The MAAWS, also known as the Carl Gustav, is an 84-millimeter reusable recoilless rifle system with laser targeting. The system replaces the M136 AT-4, a single-shot recoilless rifle. Both systems are shoulder-fired and designed to engage soft or lightly-armored targets, but the new MAAWS provides a host of upgrades and improvements, according to Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Walcott, the 116th’s NET/NEF noncommissioned officer in charge. 

During the training, Soldiers assigned to the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, the Winchester-based 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, the Portsmouth-based 2nd Battalion, 183rd Cavalry Regiment and the Kentucky National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry Regiment spent a full day in the classroom learning the basics of the MAAWS, including roles played by both Soldiers in the two-person team needed to operate the weapon. One Soldier conducts the loading and unloading of rounds, while the other aims and fires the weapon. 

That loading and unloading of the MAAWS marks the biggest difference between it and AT-4, which fires one round before the launcher is disposed of. 

“The M3E1 MAAWS has the advantage of being a reusable weapon as opposed to the AT4 which was a one-use weapon,” said Walcott. “The M3E1 also has several different rounds that can be used for different scenarios on the battlefield.”

After a day in the classroom, the Soldiers from each battalion spent the next day conducting a live-fire exercise with the MAAWS, getting a feel for its operation and capabilities. Under the guidance of program managers with the weapon’s manufacturer, Soldiers practiced safety procedures and fired sub-caliber tracer rounds down range to learn how to use the targeting system to hone in on their objectives. After each Soldier had taken a turn in the firing and loading positions, each then got the opportunity to fire an 84-millimeter down range. 

Incorporating multiple live-fire ranges into this training and fielding event provided a unique challenge for the NET/NEF staff. 

“With most fieldings, units come to Fort Pickett, sign for their new equipment, then Soldiers will come to training, either at Fort Pickett or another location, conduct the training and return to their home of record,” said Walcott. “With the M3E1, a suitable range had to be coordinated, ammunition for training had to be requested and delivered to the ammunition supply point. There was also more planning needed to ensure the live fire exercise was conducted safely and to standard.”

The Soldiers who participated in the training and fielding will in turn train Soldiers at their home units how to use the system. 

The MAAWS fielding was originally planned to take place in 2020, but had to be delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The MTC Fort Pickett NET/NEF facility and staff coordinate the training and fielding of all new equipment going to Virginia Army National Guard units, including weapons, sustainment equipment and training aides. 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 and the National Guard Bureau to ensure that new equipment training is provided to receiving units.

The end result is something 1st. Lt. Matthew Arnold, NET/NEF state coordinator, 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.”


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