News: Paladin training creates bonds, crew cohesion
Story by Spc. Jaqueline Benton
FORT BRAGG, N.C. — For many National Guard soldiers, annual training is more than just a two-week a year obligation. It is where they step out their civilian life, build bonds with their fellow soldiers, and hone their specific warrior skills.
Throughout their annual training held at Fort Bragg, N.C., May 31 - June 14, 2014, the Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 113th Field Artillery, 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team, trained on their M109A6 Paladin weapon systems increasing their crew effectiveness and team work.
Pfc. Ryan Popkin, a cannon crew member with Alpha Battery, 1-113th FA, said his first annual training and working with the non-commissioned officers on his crew was an invaluable experience.
“I didn’t really know what to expect, but it has been going really well,” Popkin said. “Our crew is all about passing on knowledge, which is key to my job. Our NCOs are very knowledgeable.”
From morning and well into the night they fired high explosive rounds, infrared rounds, and illumination rounds. The paladins offer the ability to secure enemy targets without seeing them with the naked eye.
“I love it so far,” he said. “I’d much rather be doing this than sitting behind a desk.”
Popkin recently graduated cannon crew member advanced individual training (AIT) and joined his unit in February.
“In AIT, you only learn the basics,” Popkin said, “in this annual training alone, I’ve learned so much more than I ever did in AIT.”
Efficient training on the paladins is extremely important for cannon crew members. They are expected to know all crew positions, the number one man, the chief, the gunner and the driver, and work in the positions efficiently. They also perform maintenance on their paladins and carrier ammunition tracked (CAT) vehicles which resupply ammunition to the paladins.
“We spend a lot of time together and are getting to know each other really well,” he said. “I really like the camaraderie here.”
When asked what was his favorite part of annual training, Popkin stated, “sending rounds down range. Everything else we do is leading up to that. It’s like the icing on the cake.”