FORT HOOD, Texas – For more than five years, civilian mobile training teams have instructed soldiers to operate the Commonly Remote Operated Weapons Station upon their arrival in combat zones but now the 1st Cavalry Division, III Corps and Fort Hood are bringing the CROWS training here to stay.
Fort Hood is scheduled to start the Army’s first self-supportive CROWS Academy in April to increase soldiers’ deployment readiness and their proficiency with the CROWS, said Command Sgt. Maj. Scott Schroeder, III Corps and Fort Hood command sergeant major.
An M-153 CROWS II is a remote weapon turret mounted on various military vehicles able to adapt to four weapons systems: the .50 Cal. Browning machine gun, MK 19 grenade launcher, M240 machine gun and M249 machine gun.
The academy is slated to align with the Fort Hood Air Assault Course and Combat Leaders Course under what will be Fort Hood’s Warrior Training Academy, stated 1st Sgt. James Williams Jr., Fort Hood Air Assault School first sergeant.
There are two nominative CROWS Academy sites, with the primary on Fort Hood main and the second on North Fort Hood – to instruct National Guardsmen and reservists, Williams added. The academy is scheduled to sign for more than 12 CROWS within the next few weeks.
Priority entry for CROWS Academy will be senior noncommissioned officers – including squad leaders and platoon sergeants, truck commanders, senior leaders, deploying units and support units that convoy frequently while deployed to combat zones, Schroeder added.
Approximately three noncommissioned officers, two from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, and one from 3rd Cavalry Regiment, have already been certified as Senior CROWS instructors while 15 other 2nd BCT noncommissioned officers have been awarded instructor titles, said Staff Sgt. Gerald Bush, with 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd BCT and a current senior CROWS instructor. A mobile training team validated the senior instructors to begin the course.
CROWS Academy will support two types of training: a three-week Train the Trainer or T3 course, which validates intermediate and senior level CROWS instructors, as well as a basic one week operators class for all soldiers, Bush explained.
Both courses are designed to give leaders a strong working knowledge of the CROWS, with the T3 course giving instructors expanded information on operating, troubleshooting and instructing the class, Bush added.
“Soldiers in T3 will complete an operators course, but additionally, an assistant instructors course and an instructors validation course,” Bush explained.
During an operator’s course, soldiers will learn how to operate the CROWS, how to interchange weapons that mount to it, its menu options, firing options and a written test.
Schroeder said reasons to introduce such a course are three-fold: Ensure senior leadership is well versed in training their soldiers adequately before deployment, reduce the costs of training and ensure noncommissioned officers are qualified as instructors.
He adds that every life saved because of the CRWOS is worth the time invested to start the academy.
“Having our own equipment and NCOs as instructors means lives saved because soldiers are being properly trained,” Schroeder explained. “This will also save the Army money.”
Schroeder said the increased training capacity adds master trainers within units on Fort Hood, which creates more effective leaders.
Sgt. 1st Class Gilbert Padilla, a platoon sergeant with 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, and CROWS instructor, said as a leader of 16 Artillerymen the existence of a CROWS academy is vital for training.
“The course has been very effective,” Padilla stated. “I want my soldiers trained proficiently before a deployment so they don’t lack knowledge, especially on a weapon system as versatile and life saving as the CROWS.”
If possible, Padilla will send all his soldiers to the operator’s course within the next few months and says he recommends the academy to all leaders and their soldiers.
“Being artillery, my squad and I haven’t frequently utilized crew serve weapons that work with the CROWS,” he said. “As a leader, being proficient on those weapons makes me the subject matter expert my soldiers need.”
With sufficient amount of training aids, simulators, equipment and instructors, classes should begin on time with the courses scheduled to integrate with the Army Training Requirements and Resources System in the near future, Bush said.