Dental hygienist shoots for new career

By Sgt. Cameron Christensen | Exercise News Day | July 25, 2019

FORT MCCOY, WI. —

Soldiers of the 603rd Military Police Company from Belton, Missouri, filed up to the ammo truck and unloaded the ammunition for the day's weapons qualifications. Nearly all of them were military police, except one. Spc. Jamey Byrd, a U.S. Army Reserve dental hygienist was among the MPs, and he was eager to get started.

“I'm excited,” said Byrd. This was his first time firing the M240B machine gun. “If I could shoot it all day, I would.”

Byrd originally enlisted as a multi-channel communications engineer, then later re-classified to dental assistant, and went on to become a dental hygienist. He transferred to the 603rd in March 2018, so he could reclassify as a military police Soldier. This is a strategic choice for him, because he is also considering a change to his civilian career.

“In the long term, I want to have a career in law enforcement,” said Byrd. “This is a good leg up to learning about becoming an actual police officer.”

Byrd said his decision was based on events from his youth.

“I've always wanted to be a police officer because of all the things I saw growing up,” said Byrd. 

He watched friends make mistakes and saw the trouble around him. Instead of going down that road, he enlisted in the Army on active duty in 2009. But it was his passion for helping people and serving his community which propelled him towards the medical field and later to the 603rd.

“That all ties into the reason I switched over,” said Byrd. “I've always been a big part of the community … no matter where I'm stationed.”

Byrd found a new community with the 603rd. With the Army Reserve's emphasis on deployment readiness, the 603rd trains in the field on its mission for detention operations and combat support . While at Fort McCoy, the 603rd required its Soldiers, including Byrd, to function as crew-served weapons gunners. This meant they needed to be proficient on a variety of weapons. Byrd and the rest of his unit made their way down rutty tank trails to some of the post's remote range areas on qualification days. The company first sergeant said their mission was clear.

“We are out here training, getting these Soldiers to sharpen their crew-served skills,” said 1st Sgt. Mark Slater. “It is all part of the Army's objective to increase Soldier lethality.”

The plan for the day was to qualify Soldiers on the M240B and the M2 machine gun. But, shortly after the ammo detail finished unpacking and sorting the day's munitions, the range was temporarily shut down due to inclement weather. Byrd said he would be disappointed if he did not get to fire or qualify because he was there for a purpose.

“I'm looking to become more proficient with my weapon, work with my peers and learn from my sergeants,” explained Byrd. “Just try to better myself and follow their lead, so when I do transfer to MP, I will know my job and know my weapon.”

The bad weather did not last long and eventually the range was cleared to fire again. When it was his turn, Byrd made his way to the firing line and got in the ready position.

“Firers, scan your lanes and fire when ready,” announced the range controller over the loudspeakers.

The air erupted with machine gun fire and Byrd engaged his targets. Between cycles of fire, his spotter, Spc. Lance Dykes, coached him on his aim and technique. Byrd quickly started knocking down targets as smoke filled the air and a small pile of spent casings grew next to him. His qualification ended almost as abruptly as it began.

“How do you feel, Byrd?” asked Dykes.

“I feel dangerous!” yelled Byrd.

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