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    Mortar gun crews test their limits

    Mortar gun crews test their limits

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Aidana Baez | The mortar gun crews assigned to Task Force Hurricane tested their proficiency and...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Aidana Baez 

    53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team

    STARKE, Fla. - The mortar gun crews assigned to Task Force Hurricane tested their proficiency and ability to work harmoniously as a crew during the gunner’s examination held on Camp Blanding Joint Training Center during pre-mobilization training Feb. 19, 2016 thru March 11, 2016.

    Task Force Hurricane, comprised of 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment, headquartered in Miramar, Fla., and Troop A, 1st Squadron, 153d Cavalry Regiment, based in Bonifay, Fla., is scheduled to mobilize to Fort Bliss, Texas, to be validated for mobilization. After the validation period, the Task Force will deploy to Camp Lemonier, Djibouti to perform security operations in the region.

    As the crew with the weapon system most power and range in an infantry squad, being proficient on the weapon system, having self-confidence with their role in the gun crew and working flawlessly as a team is essential to mission success.

    “We have to take the exam every time we fire the guns,” said Pvt. 1st Class Juan Cintron-Balseiro, a resident of St. Cloud assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment, Fla.

    Each crew within the task force consists of two gunners, two ammunition bearers, one squad leader and one section sergeant. The squad leader is responsible for the squad, supervises the emplacement of the mortar and the firing of the weapon, the gunners manipulate the sight, elevate the gear handle, and traverse the assembly wheel while the ammunition bearer loads the mortar.

    We are the thinking man’s infantry,” said Pfc. Patrick Kewley, a resident of Orlando, Fla. assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment. “We do everything 11Bs do and more.”

    Initially, Soldiers entering the Army with the desire to be an infantryman are enlisted as 11X, which is the code for infantry enlistment option. Upon completion of the 14 week one station unit training, the Soldiers are given one of the two infantryman occupations. 11B is the military occupational specialty code for an infantryman and 11C is the code for an indirect fire infantryman.

    "11Cs are the best,” said Spc. Christian Brooks, a resident of Jupiter, Fla., assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment.

    The gun crews spent a total of five days and nights on Pinner Range, one of the multi-use live fire ranges on Camp Blanding Joint Training Center. Mortar fire must be delivered by the most accurate means and that type of precision takes practice.

    “In order for them to gain full confidence with their crew and equipment, they need to spend as much time as possible together as a crew with little to no distraction,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Krenta, the senior enlisted member of Company C, 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment. “That is why they spend five days out in the field.”

    Incorporated into the five days spent on the range is practice time and dry runs with the mortars, the mortar gunnery exam and several live fire missions.

    “I’m helping out the junior Soldiers who haven’t taken the exam before,” said Brooks. “I usually qualify expert, so I want to help those who haven’t shot.”

    In order to meet the qualification requirements to take the exam, each Soldier must be proficient in mechanical training, crew drill, fire commands and the overall execution of the mortar.

    “So far, I’ve only been practicing,” said Pvt. Grant Bolin, a resident of Jacksonville, Fla., assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment. “I hope I qualify expert.”

    Mortar crews must be ready to provide immediate and accurate fire for sustained periods for multiple fire missions.

    “We’ve been practicing for this since annual training started,” said Kewley. “Actually, every drill we do some sort of training on these.”

    The exam consists of five sub-tests. The sub-tests include mounting the mortar, small deflection change, referring the sight and realigning aiming posts, large deflection and elevation changes and reciprocal laying. Each sub-test is worth 20 points. Soldiers taking the exam are given three trials. One trial is another opportunity for practice and the remaining two are for record. In order to pass the exam, a Soldier must score a minimum of 70 points. To be classified as expert, as Soldier must score between 90 to 100 points.

    “The whole thing can last up to 5 hours,” said Kewley. “I’ve taken the exam five times. Never failed it.”

    Aside from the classifications that come with passing the exam and the opportunity to perform live fire missions, qualifying expert and being selected as the top crew comes with bragging rights.

    “The crew with the top scores get placed as gun two, which is the base gun,” said 1st Lt. Matthew Shand, a resident of Cutler Ridge, Fla., assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment. “All fire adjustments are based off the base gun. We have our best team on the base gun.”

    This year, the best gun crew is from Charlie Company. The Soldiers with the highest scores are Sgt. Henry Castro, Sgt. Dylan Partridge, Spc. Julien Desir and Pvt. Nicolas Sanguinetti.

    “I am very proud to say the best gun crew came form my company,” said Krenta. “To me, this proves that all of the training we have done wasn’t lost on my guys.”



    Date Taken: 03.17.2016
    Date Posted: 03.17.2016 14:00
    Story ID: 192724
    Location: STARKE, FL, US 
    Hometown: BONIFAY, FL, US
    Hometown: CUTLER RIDGE, FL, US
    Hometown: JACKSONVILLE, FL, US
    Hometown: JUPITER, FL, US
    Hometown: MIRAMAR, FL, US
    Hometown: ORLANDO, FL, US
    Hometown: ST. CLOUD, FL, US

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