Friday, October 24, 2008

If You Have to be Away From Home, Make it Fun

Imagine that the last glint of sun is just disappearing below the horizon.

Imagine that you are on a bus with 18 other Soldiers (your buddies, the ones you will count on to cover you when danger comes) headed to a firing range where you will use your M16 to shoot at targets in the dark of night.

Imagine that the pressure is on to hit seven out of 30 targets - only 7 of 30. You gotta know that if you only have to hit 7 out of 30 targets that this will be a difficult task.

Imagine that this exercise is designed to simulate fending off an enemy who attacks in the middle of the night.

Imagine the concentration and focus it must take to complete this task while recognizing the importance of refining the skill.

Now imagine those 18 Soldiers on a bus; headed for the range in the dark of night; singing as many theme songs to all the sitcoms they can think of at the top of their lungs; laughing at how off key they are and making fun of each other for singing the wrong words.

This is not your normal Army unit! This is the 211th MPAD. Even the bus driver comments on the strangeness of the moment. "I've driven a bus at Ft. Dix for a long time and this is the first time I've ever had a unit singing songs on the way out to the range," said she.

Amazingly, every Soldier in the 211th qualifies without a hitch. The singing doesn't put them off their game one bit. They put their game face on; get the job done; and go back to laughing, kidding one another and having a great time. (Kudos to Pfc. Mitchell who hit 29 out of 30)

This scenario is standard fare for the 211th. They have fun, but they don't let the fun get in the way of the mission at hand. They all seem to know when to focus and when to relax. It's a commander and first sergeants dream.

We've been busy the last few days. We went to supply and got our first equipment and clothing issue. A total of one duffel bag and a huge back pack of gear. From extreme cold weather clothing and protective goggles to helmets and camelback hydration systems. We are getting all the free clothes we can handle.

Yesterday we completed the first of our weapons qualification tests. First we zeroed our weapons. Zeroing is the process of making sure that when we fire our weapon, the bullet (or round) hits the target we aim at.

After zero qualification we went to the full qualification range. We get 40 rounds and have to hit no less than 28 targets to get qualified. It's not easy. It really does take skill. The first test comes when we put on our protective mask and fire 20 rounds at two 50 meter targets. Each Soldier has to hit 11 targets to qualify. This is pretty tough. You can't see out of the mask very well and it is even more difficult to see the weapon site and aim. Again, every Soldier qualified.

Then we move on to shooting targets without the mask. On the range targets pop out of the ground at various intervals at 50, 150, 200 and 300 meters. You have 3 - 7 seconds to hit a given target. We shoot from a prone (laying) position on the ground in two different positions and while kneeling. The process moves along pretty quickly and when the smoke clears (literally - from firing the weapons) you are either a GO or a NO GO for the event. Again, all of our Soldier qualified - they were all GO's.

Finally, we had a great time brushing up on our land navigation (landnav) skills. The day started out very cold. There was frost on the ground and temperatures were in the low 30's. There was not nearly enough extreme cold weather gear to keep us warm.

With landnav we had to find three points on a map and move from point to point without getting lost. Each point was somewhere between 300 and 600 meters away from each other. Not that hard if you are walking across a parking lot at a mall. This was not that easy. We had a lot of trees, briar's, dead wood, hills and ticks standing between each point. It was a challenge, but, like riding a bike, it seemed to be a skill that came back easily to everyone. Nobody missed a point and nobody got lost. I'm not sure if any ticks were found - while we are close as a unit, we like to stop at tick searches.

Kudos for the day go to the whole unit. A big Hooah for the 211th!


- A weird picture of our bus from inside looking out at the mirror on the front of the bus.

- Looking down the sights. Sgt. Heise zeros her weapon on the zero range.

- Christmas in October. The Army gives our Soldiers new equipment and clothing.

- After a day of firing our M16's on the qualification range each Soldier returns to the firing line to find (police up) spent M16 cartridges for recycling the valuable brass. (left - Sgt. Zoeller/right Sgt. Taylor)

- Spc. Anderson and Sgt. Ebel re-enact the posing of American Gothic as it would have been while on an Army firing range.

1 comment:

Familia Martinez said...

Sounds like you guys are having too much fun are not going to want to come home. Glad to hear that things are going well and that you are learning lots. We love you!