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    Texas National Guardsmen take out the trucks

    Task Force Raptor (3-124 CAV) gun truckin'

    Photo By Malcolm McClendon | Spc. Maricela Cardona and Pfc. Jason Zalonis from the 712th Military Police Company,...... read more read more

    FORT BLISS, Texas - It was still dark outside when the soldiers began boarding the bus. With a wake-up at 4:00 a.m. and formation at 5:00 a.m., off they went down the long endless dirt roads at McGregor Range.

    Texas National Guardsmen from Task Force Raptor (3-124 CAV) made their way to pick up their Humvees for a day at the range. Today, they will be qualifying on Gun Truck Gunnery.

    For four days, soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, Charlie Troop, and the 712th Military Police Company have been practicing and refining mounted maneuver and shooting at targets from their Humvees.

    “The soldiers have to go through five tables before they get here,” explains Capt. Erik Alejos, officer in charge for the Task Force gunnery. “The first two tables are dry fire, with the crew learning to work with each other. Next two tables, they fire at five engagements with live rounds. And on Table V, which is a pre-qualification table, they need to hit 7 out of 10 to score a 700.”

    Today on Table VI, qualification day, the training at the tables is paying off.

    “They are doing well,” Alejos continues, “we instituted the ‘crawl, walk, run’ concept out here. For a lot of these guys it’s the first time; they’ve never worked as a crew, so they’re going through that initial understanding of how to work in a gun truck crew. But like anything, as you continue to train, you get proficient at it.”

    The Gun Truck Crews consist of a gunner, a truck commander and a driver. Even though the gunner is the one who takes aim and pulls the trigger, it takes the whole crew to qualify.

    “It’s very crucial for the driver to have a very steady platform for the gunner,” says Spc. Maricela Cardona from the 712th Military Police Company out of Houston. “If the driver hits the brakes, it throws the gunner’s whole sight picture off and results in targets not being hit.”

    As the TC in her Gun Truck, Cardona is responsible for the entire crew’s success. She makes sure her gunner is up to speed on his gunnery skills, and that the driver knows the course he will be driving.

    Cardona is no stranger to taking charge and leading personnel. In her hometown of Houston, she is a Human Resources Supervisor. She finds that the opportunities given to her by the Texas Army National Guard help her out there and vice-versa.

    “Supervising almost one-hundred personnel in my civilian job, I get the jest of what it takes to get the word out, take care of, and mentor my soldiers,” explains Cardona, and likewise I can take the skills I learn here to my civilian job.”

    Once qualified, Cardona’s and the rest of Task Force Raptor’s crews will take these valuable skills on their deployment to the Horn of Africa early next year.

    Alejos explains, “Our Task Force has been given the task to provide a security force over there. Gun Trucks are a critical part of that force; and that’s why we have to do gunnery, to get our crews qualified for that mission.”

    The Task Force will join a larger Combined Joint Task Force in the Horn of Africa to promote partnerships with the region’s countries.

    Back here on the ranges at McGregor, the crews anxiously wait their turn to qualify. The early morning wake-ups and the chilly desert air they provide are a welcomed change for Cardona.

    “I love the opportunity to take a break from HR, get out of a stuffy office and shoot some weapon systems, I love it!”



    Date Taken: 11.01.2011
    Date Posted: 11.20.2011 15:51
    Story ID: 80303
    Location: FORT BLISS, TX, US 

    Web Views: 147
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