News: US Army weapons experts instruct ANA to train themselves
Story by Staff Sgt. Richard Andrade
KAPISA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – An Afghan National Army vehicle hit an improvised explosive device during a patrol. Every soldier survived but an M-16 rifle inside the vehicle received damaged to its barrel.
United States Army small arms/artillery repairers are training ANA soldiers on the maintenance and repair of M-16 rifles at Forward Operating Base Naghlu High, so they can repair damaged weapons and put them back in the fight.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Gary Ramosnunez and Pfc. William Eldridge’s mission is to visit forward operating bases in Regional Command-East and make sure soldiers’ weapon systems work.
Eldridge said they are trained to fix various weapons systems, from the “triple sevens,” [M777 howitzer], to mortars, all the way down to pistols.
The weapons experts work at Bagram Air Field and are responsible for keeping their brigade’s weapon systems fully mission capable. Both serve as small arms and artillery repairers assigned to Company A, 27th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, based out of Fort Hood, Texas.
Eldridge, a native of Boise, Idaho, said he has been busy since arriving in Afghanistan because some weapons he encountered in-country were overdue for services. He has visited FOB Naghlu High, FOB Gamberi, FOB Xio Haq, and FOB Tagab. Basically, anywhere there are 4-1 soldiers with weapons needing repair or service, he has been there.
“When any [weapons system] is broken we travel to the FOB and fix it,” said Ramosnunez.
“We have people going in and out of the FOBs on convoys, we want to make sure every weapon system works, in case they ever have to use it,” said Ramosnunez.
Another aspect of his job is training the ANA on various weapon systems. He trains Afghan soldiers into becoming instructors. Once qualified they can train fellow soldiers in their units how to properly maintain and repair their weapons.
“It’s a pretty fulfilling job,” said Eldridge. “I enjoy it because I like to repair things.”
He said the plan is to teach them day-by-day so the ANA soldiers are not overwhelmed. Eldridge said they will eventually train the ANA on the M249 light machine gun and .50-caliber machine gun.
Ramosnunez, a native of Cidra, Puerto Rico, said he loves his job and enjoys interacting with ANA soldiers during the weapons instructor course. He says the ANA he trains are very motivated, and want to do their job. In his opinion, training them how to fix their weapons systems will give them an edge in the fight.
Ramosnunez has three previous deployments to Iraq; this is his first deployment to Afghanistan.
For the ANA, the role of weapons maintainer is vital. They will act as first-line maintainers on their unit’s weapon systems.
“It is important for their force protection, so when we leave, they will be self-sustained,” said Ramosnunez.
Most of the ANA soldiers have experience from previous weapons training, so for some it was a refresher course.
Ramosnunez said the class is driven by the ANA, noting that they are quick to learn and learn faster by working hands-on.
“Yesterday they asked me if we could teach them how to change a barrel on an M16, so today we showed them how to do it with the correct tools,” said Ramosnunez. “We do whatever they want to do or whatever they want to know about a weapon.”
The informal class demonstrations are supposed to familiarize them with the mechanics of an M16; they take it apart and put it back together again. During the weapons instructor course, the ANA soldiers are encouraged to ask questions to make sure they understand each step. A translator is there to facilitate communications between them.
The two weapons specialists showed the ANA soldiers how to properly change the barrel of the M16 damaged in a vehicle hit by an IED. With the proper tools he made sure the ANA soldiers had a chance to do it, not just watch.
Once the ANA soldiers have completed the weapons instructor course they should be experienced and confident enough to instruct their fellow soldiers in proper weapons maintenance and repair.
“We provide the tools, technical manuals and instruction,” said Ramosnunez. “So that when we leave they should be able to fix their own weapon systems.”