By Jonathan LeBlanc, Fort Bliss Bugle Staff:
(EL Paso, Texas, Nov. 2, 2017)
MCGREGOR RANGE, N.M. – Soldiers assigned to Company A, 4th Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, train hard and often. As Soldiers on the front line, they need to be efficient. The unit sends its Soldiers to the range on a regular basis to ensure competence and accuracy.
The Soldiers within this unit are required to be familiar with all of the Army’s small arms weapons systems, and it is for that reason that these infantry Soldiers must spend more time practicing and improving their marksmanship skills.
The unit spent the day Oct. 25 qualifying on the M249 light machine gun to ensure they are always ready. The weapon, often called the Squad Automatic Weapon, has a maximum range of 3,600 meters, weighs 16.41 pounds and has a sustained rate of fire of 100 rounds per minute.
Second Lt. Edward Wilkinson, a platoon leader, assigned to Co. A, 4th Bn., 6th Inf. Regt., 3rd BCT, 1st AD, said the more often Soldiers shoot their weapons, the more accurate they become, which increases readiness.
Not only is the unit training to stay sharp, but they are also getting ready for two large-scale training exercises coming up next year.
“We want to make sure our Soldiers are ready for Bulldog Focus and Iron Focus this upcoming year,” Wilkinson said.
Bulldog Focus, which leads up to Iron Focus, includes platoon and company-level exercises that culminate with live-fire training.
Iron Focus is a brigade-level training exercise that allows commanders to exercise their systems and processes, as well as battle tracking and forward support distribution. It also allows them to gauge the status of their readiness and validate processes to ensure they are prepared for worldwide operations.
Meanwhile, however, the Soldiers are mastering the various skills they will use in the bigger exercises, and not only does this training increase Soldier readiness, it also gives them a sense of accomplishment.
“When the Soldiers are proficient on the weapons systems it gives them a sense of pride in what they are doing,” Wilkinson said.
In addition, the training helps Soldiers learn to work together as a team, with more experienced Soldiers helping those who are less experienced become proficient in using the weapon system.
Spc. Christian Gillett, an infantryman assigned to Co. A, 4th Bn., 6th Inf. Regt., 3rd BCT, 1st AD, is familiar with the M249 and understands the importance of the training.
“The 249 is one of our most important weapons as an infantry Soldier,” Gillett said. “We need to make sure we stay proficient and get qualified on it. This is especially important for the newer Soldiers to be out here so they can get acclimated and comfortable with the 249.”