News: Soldiers conduct grenade training
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. - Soldiers of Battery C, 2nd Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 101st Sustainment Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), conducted a live grenade qualification range Sept. 3, 2013, at Fort Campbell, Ky. This was the first time in nearly four years that the unit had participated in a live grenade range.
The Charlie Battery "Hellfighters" conducted extensive preparation for two week prior to the range. The unit also gave all of the soldiers participating in the range refresher training that went over different throwing techniques and identified which personnel would require additional training before the range. This training was essential to the range's success.
"I thought it was very good training. We all needed training practice before using live grenades," stated Sgt. Nathan Eggebrecht, an Avenger crew member. "Learning how to appropriately steady and position yourself so you throw the grenade straight instead of at an angle, like how to get the right aim down."
The soldiers would qualify using M69 practice grenades on seven unique stations commonly referred to as lanes.
Sgt. 1st Class Scott Paul and Sgt. Shaun Shepherd, the range safeties, gave a demonstration of each lane to the soldiers before the range went hot.
In order to earn expert, they would have to receive a go at all seven lanes. In order to qualify, they would need to pass at least five stations. Each station required them to demonstrate their proficiency with grenades in a different manner. Two hours later, 44 grenadiers had negotiated the seven lanes, some multiple times. Out of those soldiers, 24 distinguished themselves by earning the expert badge and only two failed to qualify.
After completing the qualification range, everyone gathered for a briefing regarding the climatic event of the day: throwing live grenades. Once the briefing was completed, Paul led the first iteration of soldiers to the grenade bunker. The bunker was 200 meters beyond the security fence, surrounded by explosive warnings. Twelve-foot-high berms bordered the range on either side of the concrete bunker. Soldiers entered single file and sat on wooden benches as they gathered around the bulletproof glass lookout onto the range's live-fire pits.
The pit safeties exited the bunker to their pits and many soldiers looked anxious. The officer in charge of the range made a final radio check to the medics, gate guard, pit safeties and ammo point before beginning. Moments later, a loud explosion signaled the first grenade thrown by an air defender on Fort Campbell in over four years had detonated.
However, on one of the first throws, a grenade failed to properly detonate, resulting in an immediate check-fire. Until explosive ordnance disposal soldiers cleared the training area, the remaining soldiers would have to wait before they had their chance to throw a live grenade.
EOD classified the malfunctioning grenade as "loward," which are explosives that detonate but only at a low percentage of their optimal capability. After nearly two hours of waiting, EOD cleared the range and the training to continue.
By the end of the day, the soldiers had expended 400 M69 practice grenades and 103 live fragmentation grenades with the only injury being a bee sting.
Sgt. Jose Recinos, a team chief, summarized the training.
"It was a good training event," said Recinos. "It's hard to show these guys something realistic, but these were real grenades. We were way away back in the bleachers and you could still hear and feel it all, gave it a sense of realism like 'Hey, this is for real!'"