FORT DIX, N.J. –
The thunderous sounds of large caliber automatic weapons, stern commands from the tower and assertive responses from the truck crew flew through the air nearly as quickly as the rounds headed downrange during Operation Cold Steel III at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. this November.
Operation Cold Steel is a U.S. Army Reserve series of mounted and ground crew-served weapons qualification events to improve U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers' readiness and lethality. This series of crew-served weapons training wrapped up just before the Thanksgiving holiday for the dozens of 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command Soldiers who came to the base for the weeks-long training.
Soldiers in the 142nd Transportation Company and troops from other logistics and sustainment units in the 316th ESC’s command fired day and night ranges using M2 and M240-B machine guns while mounted in M1097 HMMWVs. The training wasn’t just a familiarization or confidence-building exercise. It was a recorded qualification, and the 316th Soldiers took the night-fire gunnery table seriously.
Pvt. Ricky Guerrero, a newly enlisted Soldier in the 142nd Transportation Company (Detachment) based in Fort Totten, N.Y., said, “Honestly, I was very nervous about doing this. But when you have a good team, they help keep you on target.” Guerrero said he relied on the tips and suggestions his truck commander called out over the thump, thump, thump of the machine gun—crediting that advice with helping him score the highest hit percentage of all the other gunners during the training. “They’d yell, ‘Hey! Just a little higher or a little lower’ to get me to knock down the targets,” he added.
During the gunnery table, Soldiers also fired the M2 while moving their vehicle from one fixed position to another. Under complete darkness, Guerrero and his team depended on their night-vision goggles and their training to master the mission.
Guerrero, who joined the U.S. Army Reserve less than a year ago, said he had never fired a weapon under these conditions. “You have to learn the weapon and get a feel for her,” he said.
Although this series of Operation Cold Steel is completed, Guerrero, along with thousands of other U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers from the 316th ESC’s Pittsburgh, Pa. based headquarters and its subordinate units across five other northeastern states, are committed to remaining ready to defend America. That’s why they are planning to conduct another series of crew-served weapons training early next year.