ADAZI, Latvia - Paratroopers with 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade began a week of live-fire training here July 7.
"Ideally, you want more than a handful of gunners," said Spc. Lee Starks, a native of Tampa, Fla. "We don't get to run machine gun ranges very often at home. Being in Latvia gives us an opportunity to gain proficiency with all of our weapon systems."
Approximately 600 paratroopers from the 173rd Abn. Bde., based in Italy and Germany, are deployed throughout Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve to demonstrate commitment to NATO obligations and sustain interoperability with allied forces.
Paratroopers with the 1st Sqdn., 91st Cav. Regt., based at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, started with an M4 carbine qualification range on July 7 before beginning more specialized weapons training.
The next day's training began a two-day machine gun course. Before picking up either the M240B machine gun or M249 squad automatic weapon for qualification, paratroopers learned about machine gun theory.
"Machine gun theory is the science behind the weapon," said Sgt. Casey Waller, a native of Mesa, Ariz. "By knowing the mechanics of the weapons and the trajectory of the rounds, you can apply different techniques to use the cone of fire against the enemy.
Waller explained bullets may spiral differently based on weather, recoil and other factors to the point where the bullet arcs cover a wider area. This cone of fire, or beaten zone, can be used to target enemy forces more difficult to engage with point-target weapons such as the M4.
Applying the principles taught to them the day prior, paratroopers observed their cones of fire on a live fire range to help plot the most effective path of their rounds.
On July 10, paratroopers arrived to a M320 grenade launcher familiarization range via helicopter.
"We did some training loading and unloading from a Black Hawk helicopter this morning," said Pfc. Steven Furnas, a grenadier with the 1st Sqdn., 91st Cav. Regt. "It helps new Soldiers like myself, who have never flown in a Blackhawk, be more comfortable being loaded in. It really helped familiarize us with it."
Once at the range, paratroopers were each given 25 rounds for the M320. For many, this would be their first experience with this weapon.
"I was just recently assigned the grenade launcher," said Furnas, a native of Kansas City. "It's a pretty big responsibility."
After firing the M320, paratroopers moved to a nearby range to practice shooting from stationary and moving positions. There, paratroopers carried two ammunition cans through loose sand to stress their breathing and heart rate before sprinting to six different stations to fire in prone, kneeling and seated positions from behind cover and concealment, such as boards and bushes.
"It helps you learn how to react to contact under pressure," said Spc. Ryan Thomas, an infantryman with the 1st Sqdn., 91st Cav. Regt. "Usually in a combat situation, you're going to be really tired, so you've got to know how to adjust to that and work hard to get the job done."
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This work, Paratroopers learn theory, application of weapon systems, by SSG Michael Crawford, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.