CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait – A master gunner gets no sleep. When the tanks crew wakes – he builds. When the tank crew fires – he observes. When the tank crew rests – he teaches. When the tank crew leaves – he resets for the next.
The entire battalion waits for him – he cannot let the battalion wait.
Staff Sgt. Gregory Hennon gets no sleep, and the 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, will not leave him behind.
Nominated by his battalion, Hennon is one of five Soldiers in U.S. Army Central to receive a battlefield promotion in Kuwait promoting him from sergeant to staff sergeant.
The battlefield promotion system is a program that meritoriously promotes eligible Soldiers during a deployment outside of the traditional Army promotion system.
Eight years in the army and three as a promotable sergeant, Hennon knows hardship and knows struggles starting from before he joined at the age of 27.
“I was a mason before coming in and my appendix ruptured and after three months in the hospital, I lost my job,” said Hennon.
A lieutenant colonel uncle convinced him to join the Army, and Hennon signed up as a 19K tanker.
Rising up through the ranks, he found he loved to teach, and according to Hennon, the ultimate teacher for a tank company is the master gunner.
“At the company level, it’s first training your guys how to manipulate the tank and use the fire control system,” said Hennon. “After that, it’s teaching them how to conduct fire engagements, and ultimately, it’s tracking the gunnery of the unit and finding the weak and strong points of the crews.”
When the unit arrived to Kuwait, Hennon was asked to be the battalion master gunner. The battalion tasked him to create gunnery tables, which are combat simulated engagements from scratch.
In other words, he was in charge of the battalion’s training and certification of M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank crews on what was a proverbial blank desert slate.
“I was the one who built all the tables we fired on. There were no targets in the ground, so we picked where they went, dug them into place and built the scenarios,” said Hennon.
Adhering to the confines of the range, he made the engagements smooth and fluid and incorporated the Army required standards for the tables.
When the range went live, he evaluated results.
When asked, when does a master gunner sleep, he responded with a shrug “Sleep?”
The results and dedication were not lost on his leadership.
“He understands what the master gunner program is about. He’s implemented all the correct standards for the companies to follow, and he’s succeeded at any kind of range or table,” said 1st Sgt. Sammie Clark, senior enlisted leader, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Bn., 67 Ar. Regt.
Clark continued to say that while developing the battalion’s gunnery program, Hennon did it filling a slot two ranks above him, and the battalion felt it was their duty to recognize his leadership potential.
“He was put in for a battlefield promotion because he serves in a sergeant 1st class position at the battalion level and for his potential to lead as a staff sergeant or sergeant 1st class, said Clark. “From a leadership perspective, we are making sure we promote those who are able to lead at different levels,” said Clark.
In a career field hit hard by the Army’s current draw down, Hennon’s battlefield promotion still leaves him a bit apprehensive of what he thinks some may call a freebee, but he personally feels it’s needed for those who sacrifice for the mission.
“The Army doesn't look at you (for staff sergeant), they look at a number on a piece of paper,” Hennon said. “I think it cuts a lot of guys short whenever you have guys who are working in the field on a day-to-day basis and don’t have a chance to do college or correspondence courses. This is a system that lets some people know there’s still a chance.”
His leadership agrees.
“He will excel,” said Clark.