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NEWS | Feb. 9, 2015

3rd Brigade Combat Team Gunnery Ensures Readiness, Builds Cohesion

By Sgt. Samuel Northrup, U.S. Army

A cold wind swept across the land in the early morning as a Bradley made its way into position. Inside the 27 tons of steel, a crew scanned for targets in the area while another Bradley moved up nearby. Suddenly, a deafening and repeating boom was heard as one of the Bradley's opened fire with its main gun, followed by bursts from its M240C Machine Gun.

With targets destroyed, the two Bradley Fighting Vehicles pressed on through the seemingly endless and unforgiving terrain.

This was part of the gunnery skills training for members of 3rd Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. 3-8 Cav. held gunnery Feb. 5-8 at Rodriguez Live Fire Complex. The gunnery, which will be one of the last ones 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team will conduct before rotating out, included training for Bradley Fighting Vehicles and M1A2 Abrams Tanks.

The Soldiers of 3-8 Cav. are on a nine-month rotation to South Korea and currently fall under the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.

Inside every tri-color camouflage-painted Bradley is a three-member crew of Soldiers, each with a specific job that is important for the successful operation of these lethal machines. The crew is comprised of: a driver that operates and positions the vehicle to fire on target, a gunner who locates targets and employs its weapons systems, and a Bradley commander who commands and supervises all operations of the vehicle.

Crewmembers must train on Gunnery Table V and qualify on Gunnery Table VI in order to sustain their communication, technical and firing skills.

"A big part of the operation within the vehicle is the crew's fire commands, which is the communication among the BC, gunner, and driver," said Staff Sgt. Jose Trejo, the company master gunner for Company B, 3-8 Cav. "An engagement cannot even begin without the BC acknowledging there is a target. A gunner cannot fire without the acknowledgment or the command of execution, and a driver cannot move the vehicle without the BC saying 'driver up or driver down.'"

Before training on gunnery table V and VI, crews trained in the Bradley Advanced Training System, which is a simulation of tasks they performed on the other gunnery tables, said Trejo. During that time, they will perfect their communication and firing drills. Crew cohesiveness was 75 percent of the performed task.

"We have to be a team of three doing three jobs equally well to ensure we stay alive in a combat situation," said 1st Lt. Mitch Figgat, a platoon leader with Co. B. "That team cohesion is built by spending hours and hours in the brad, syncing movements and engaging targets. A lot of training has to be done because that communication has to be extremely efficient and succinct."

In order to perform their jobs equally well, the crewmembers learn each other's duties to ensure everyone is ready to perform any position when necessary, said Figgat.

"The cross training goes as far as the dismounted squads," said Trejo. "The squads will come out and train with some of the mounted guys; the crew will train the squad to task and go over scenarios or any gunnery skills that the mounted guys would do out here. We are never supposed to have a block where we cannot fill a Bradley crew position."

All the crews arrived here from Fort Hood, Texas already qualified, said Figgat. This gunnery was an opportunity for the crews to perfect their skills in order to be ready to fight tonight. They need to become masters of their craft in order to be better than the enemy they will fight.

"Upon successful completion of the gunnery, the lethality of the crew will fully developed," said Trejo. "The commander knows at any given time he can call that crew, push that platoon or section forward, and know that they will engage and destroy the enemy with that vehicle."

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