News: Heavy weapons training readies Vanguard soldiers
Story by Sgt. Mary Katzenberger
FORT STEWART, Ga. – Armed with 32-inch monitors, game controllers and headphones, “Vanguard” soldiers operated on the digital battlefield, May 7-18, with a lethal weapon system known to America’s enemies as The Finger of God.
The two-week course, held in a mobile Collective Skills Trainer in the complex of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, on Fort Stewart, Ga., centered on training a wheeled assault platoon-sized element of soldiers on the tactical operation of the tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire command data link guided missile Improved Target Acquisition System.
On the real battlefield the TOW-ITAS is mounted on Humvees and is operated by soldiers in infantry heavy weapons companies; the weapon system has become a vital addition to the Army’s arsenal for its ability to locate and destroy insurgents from distances of 5,000-6,000 meters.
Sgt. 1st Class Rob Zimdahl, a heavy weapons leader course senior instructor from Fort Benning, Ga., said the mobile trainer allows heavy weapons platoons to perfect their standard operating procedures in a controlled environment, eliminating up to three days that would have to be spent training with the weapon system in the field to gain the same level of proficiency.
Zimdahl said the software, designed to train soldiers for combat scenarios, allows soldiers to execute all types of infantry missions.
Spc. Joshua Boggs, an infantryman with Company D, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th IBCT, said his field experience with the TOW-ITAS thus far has been limited to using the weapon system for sighting targets which he then engages with the 240B or .50-caliber machine guns.
Boggs said the mobile trainer gave him the unique opportunity to learn how to use the full capabilities of the TOW-ITAS in combat scenarios.
“Hands-on is the best way to do it, you can’t be told how to do it,” Boggs said. “This is a good class for anybody who’s [in a] junior leadership position … and especially for [soldiers] in a [heavy weapons company].”
Sgt. Walter Banks, a cannon crewmember with Battery B, 1st Battalion, 76th Field Artillery Regiment, 4th IBCT, said that while he has never used the TOW-ITAS, participating in the course taught him everything he needed to know, from arming the system and acquiring targets, to where to place TOW-ITAS systems within a wheeled patrol for maximum effectiveness.
“They set you up for success,” Banks said of the military and civilian instructors. “I think last week in preparations, with studying every piece and how it goes together and what the controls do, [they] showed you everything you needed to know [about] the ITAS system.”