The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW




The Challenge

During a year-long deployment, any unit will have problems with crew stability. As TFE entered Bosnia-Herzegovina, all crews were qualified and proficient. However, as the mission continued, crew changeover took its toll. Many crew members separated from the service, retired, made a permanent change of station, attended schools or were switched to other jobs. Coupled with the fact that units could not conduct dedicated gunnery training of crew skills due to 24-hour operations and continuous missions, maintaining qualified and proficient crews quickly became a concern. Limited resources (training areas, time, and training aids) also compounded the problem. TFE developed a training plan for all Tank and Bradley units to rotate through TTA to maintain qualification. However, this did not solve the problem of training new crews on the pre-gunnery skills necessary to qualify.

Role of the Master Gunner

As weaknesses in pre-gunnery skills became apparent, Task Force Eagle turned to its master gunners to sustain and teach gunnery skills in theater. Many master gunners had other primary jobs as staff NCOs due to the requirements of continuous operations. However, master gunners found the time to develop sustainment gunnery plans using a crawl, walk, run method and the USAREUR 8-step training model as a guide. Individual tasks were taught first. Leader tasks were taught next and finally collective tasks. As standards were met, conditions and level of difficulty were increased. Of particular interest is the way master gunners integrated TWGSS/PGS in Tank Crew Proficiency Courses (TCPCs) and Bradley Crew Proficiency Courses (BCPCs).

Fielding TWGSS/PGS

TWGSS/PGS is still fairly new to the Army. Many master gunners have never used the system. This was evident by the lack of knowledge and proficiency of the training aid by master gunners in the field. TFE conducted a rapid New Equipment Training (NET) at TTA for selected master gunners. Master gunners attended a three-day crash course on the system. The class is normally a five-day train-the-trainer course.

Because of mission constraints, many master gunners could not attend the three-day PGS trainup. Units overcame this minor problem by conducting their own NETs in sector. For example, one master gunner arranged for the PGS to be at a checkpoint the unit was manning. The master gunner gave numerous classes to all personnel who were not actively manning the checkpoint. After a two-day period, all key trainers were brought up to speed on the use, installation, and capabilities of the system. This type of training made it possible for the unit to take full advantage of time allotted to conduct TCPCs and BCPCs in the AOR and at TTA.

TWGSS/PGS is both a gunnery and force-on-force appended device which, unlike MILES, allows for the full interaction of gunnery drills with eyesafe lasers, hit-kill indicators, lead on a moving target, and aural and visual cues. The systems can be used for a panel gunnery trainer which will allow feedback to the crew via aural cues and visual effects. TWGSS can be set up for both full- and half-scale gunnery. To replicate 3,000 meters of range, 1,500 meters of actual real estate would need to be available. PGS can be set up for 1/10-scale gunnery, requiring significantly less real estate than TWGSS.

Building TCPC/BCPC

As stated earlier, finding training areas close to base camps was a challenge for TFE units. Units had to construct TCPC/BCPCs near base camps where they could use their limited resources during the conduct of daily operations. Minefields in the area posed many problems. Some units had the luxury of dedicated ranges in protected areas of their base camps that allowed them use without having to leave the confines of the lodgment areas. Other units did not have this luxury. An example of initiative used by one master gunner to create a makeshift BCPC that could be used by crews from his unit is worth noting. Near the base camp, a unit had little space that could be dedicated for use as a BCPC. The unit Master Gunner realized that a stretch of road not far from base camp was free of mines and was infrequently used by the local civilians. He coordinated for engineers to grade the road surface and push earth under his supervision to create "battle positions." On each side of the road were numerous tree lines. In lieu of target lifters, full-scale targets were placed on opposite sides of the tree lines of the BFV direction of travel. Therefore, the BFV would come face to face with the target it was to engage. The master gunner would evaluate the engagement. This BCPC was approximately two miles long and had 12 engagements. The unit Master Gunner had the option to reposition the targets , allowing him to increase the desired level of difficulty for crews that had already met the standard on previous runs.

tcpc-bcp.gif - 7.67 K

Overcoming Supply Shortfalls

Many of the TWGSS/PGS training aids that were issued in TFE AOR did not receive the entire complement of training aids that was supposed to accompany the system. There were basically three areas that unit master gunners had to overcome: Targets, retroreflectors and equipment instruction and technical manuals.

Units that were issued target lifters received the Single Infantry Target lifters. These were the only type of target lifters that were available for issue. Tank unit master gunners realizing the infantry lifters would not be sufficiently powered to lift 1/2- scale tank targets, constructed lighter targets from available resources. They constructed cardboard targets to compensate for the weight difference of the different targets. The targets were not as durable due to weather and wind but were sufficient to conduct training. Other unit master gunners did not use the infantry targets lifters at all. They constructed makeshift targets from available resources. A tank platoon operating a checkpoint at the ZOS (Zone Of Separation) where they had very little available terrain and no training devices to work with was able to conduct gunnery training by building a mini-range out of materials they had on hand. The master gunner fashioned targets out of MRE boxes and affixed them to a 2x4. A string was added to raise the target and a rubber band attached to the back allowed the target to be lowered. Later, reverse polarity thermal paper was added to the targets to provide thermal training.

statargt.gif - 5.91 K

To add a moving target scenario, a track was designed from a 4x4 and 1x4's nailed together to fit over the track. A string was added to provide movement. The type of training provided by the master gunner wasn't published in any field manual; it was from his own personnel experience and imagination. Not everyone possesses these traits and, therefore, may be falling short in providing opportunity training for their unit.

movtarg.gif - 4.76 K

Many of the TWGSS/PGS training aids issued only came with three additional retroreflectors. This only allowed for a three-target array on their training range. To double the number of targets, master gunners disassembled the reflectors, which have two prisms, and mounted one prism on each target. Although this is not recommended because the reflectors are destroyed (allows moisture to get to the reflectors because waterproof seals are broken), units did have more targets in which to engage.

Many of these same TWGSS/PGS training aids were issued without the required technical and instruction manuals because the manuals were used at TTA for the three-day NET train-the-trainer course and not returned for issue with the equipment.

Concurrent Training

During daily operations, such as manning checkpoints, observations posts, or on call as a quick reaction force, time was available for a small percentage of a unit's force to conduct concurrent training while most soldiers and vehicles were conducting the mission. As an example, crews could rotate from one vehicle providing security at a checkpoint to another vehicle that was set up for target acquisition training using thermal sights and reverse polarity paper. Examples of concurrent training observed include:

  • Units using snake/worm boards to develop tracking skills and turret control techniques. Some units did not have snake boards available. Instead, they tracked silhouettes of a building, vehicle, or terrain feature to practice these skills.

  • Units using reverse polarity paper to familiarize crews with target signatures. This improved target acquisition skills using thermal sights.

  • Units practicing scan techniques. Fixed targets were placed at various angles in adjacent fields enabling crews to improve scan techniques. Units used a combination of scale targets and target silhouettes for this purpose. Other units used micro-armor for this same purpose.

  • Units practicing misfire procedures.

  • Units training on switching between sights (black hot/white hot).

Pre-Gunnery Training

Many units conducted an in-depth pre-gunnery trainup prior to qualification at TTA. Most units conducted this trainup approximately two weeks prior to qualification.

Most units used a sustainment gunnery plan that was written by the battalion S3 and Master Gunner. This gunnery plan was distributed down to company level where the unit could tailor the plan to fit the company's specific mission. The plan normally consisted of numerous classes on preliminary gunnery subjects such as target acquisition, engagement techniques, fire commands, and misfire procedures. Upon completion of the classes, the unit conducted a BCPC/TCPC and a diagnostic and record BGST/TGST. During the BCPC/TCPC, the tasks that were evaluated included gun lay, tracking, fire commands, engagement techniques, berm drills (driving techniques), shooting in a simulated NBC environment, thermal sight usage, range determination, and target (fire) adjustment. Upon completion of the TCPC/BCPC, the battalion and company master gunners determined which crews were not as strong as other crews in their crew skills. These crews (usually the newer crews) were identified and were sent to TTA with the advance party to utilize the Mobile Conduct of Fire Trainer (M-COFT). This gave each of the weaker crews at least 10 hours of additional training prior to qualification. The next company that was scheduled to qualify at TTA was given priority on the battalion's training resources to include TWGSS/PGS, classrooms, and the TCPC/BCPC.

Gunnery at TTA

The gunnery program that was originally established at TTA was for company/troop-sized units to rotate through an 8-day training cycle. Day 1 was devoted to travel to the TTA. Day 2 consisted of equipment draw, setup of training devices and the conduct of TCPC/BCPC. Days 3 and 4 were devoted to Table VIII qualification. Day 5 was devoted to requalification, maintenance, and equipment turn-in. A two-day (Day 6 and 7) R&R was then taken by the unit. Day 8 was devoted to travel back to the AOR. Later the training rotation was changed. Tables XI and XII were added in lieu of the two days of R&R. This enabled leaders to train platoons by maneuvering in a tactical environment. This also gave the commander an assessment of the company's training status before deploying back to the AOR or home station.

No intermediate tables (V, VI, VII) were fired at TTA. Units that fired Tables VIII and XII performed poorly on engagements requiring the special gunnery techniques that intermediate tables provide. Engagements that were conducted with a fully operational fire control system and employing only one weapons system at a time did not seem to pose a problem to crews.

Lessons Learned

arrow7.gif 0.08 KUnit master gunners are a combat multiplier. Their primary mission during extended deployments must be sustainment of gunnery skills. This is a full-time job. Crew turbulence will continue to be a problem for units who conduct extended operations. Sustainment training plans must be developed during the early stages of extended deployments to ensure that appropriate resources are planned for and available.

arrow7.gif 0.08 KNumerous training aids, devices, simulations and simulators (TADSS) are available that will assist in sustaining gunnery skills. The placement and access to these valuable resources must be closely scrutinized to ensure that as many units as possible can gain access to these valuable resources.

arrow7.gif 0.08 KThe gunnery tables are designed in a typical crawl, walk, run fashion. They incorporate all facets of the weapons system, not just the "point and shoot" engagements or just the portions that make a crew qualified. Emphasis must be placed on training crews to operate their weapon systems to their fullest capability before the qualification table. This should include intermediate gunnery tables if possible.

arrow7.gif 0.08 KSustainment training must be built into the daily operations of a unit that is conducting continuous operations. Leaders need to use their imagination and initiative to develop useful and challenging training while still meeting the demands of the mission.

arrow7.gif 0.08 KWhen fielding new equipment, NET is imperative. All new equipment components must be issued with the equipment to ensure units can get the most benefit.

btn_tabl.gif 1.21 K
btn_prev.gif 1.18 KSection III - Resourcing the Strategy
btn_next.gif 1.17 KSection V - TTP for Maintaining Physical Fitness

Join the mailing list

One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias