Virginia hosts first Crew-Served Weapons Course at Fort Pickett

Virginia National Guard Soldiers train on the M249 light machine gun and the M240B machine gun Sept. 13, 2017, during the state’s first-ever Crew-Served Weapons Course, hosted by the 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. Twenty-eight Soldiers from various units attended the five-day course. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — Instructors assigned to the 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute taught Virginia’s first-ever Crew-Served Weapons Course Sept. 11-15, 2017, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. Twenty-eight Soldiers from units across the state attended the course, which focused on the M249 light machine gun and the M240B machine gun while aiming to improve machine gun proficiency across the force. 

“It’s been going really well,” explained Staff Sgt. Anthony Pagliei, course manager for the Crew-Served Weapons Course. “The students have been real motivated and they’re all learning something new, learning little tricks of the trade.” 

Pagliei explained that commanders across the state had identified a need for improved instruction on machine guns and it fell to the 183rd RTI to design a course to meet that need. He explained that planning for the course had been ongoing for several months and included not just laying out the logistical considerations of the course, but also developing a plan of instruction. With the pilot course, cadre aimed to assess their newly-developed course outline and determine what improvements or changes could be made to the course moving forward. 

A Virginia National Guard Soldier trains on the M249 light machine gun Sept. 13, 2017, during the state’s first-ever Crew-Served Weapons Course, hosted by the 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti)

Cadre encouraged units to send a four-person crew to the course – comprised of one noncommissioned officer and three Soldiers – who would then train together throughout the course, learning or improving their skills together. The intent was for each unit to then have a fully-trained gun crew capable of training other Soldiers. 

The course started with classroom instruction, going over the basics of both the M249 and the M240B, drilling Soldiers on basic gunner’s skills before launching into Gunner’s Skills Testing, or GST, which each Soldier was required to pass before firing the weapon. The GST requires Soldiers to clear, disassemble, reassemble and functions check the weapon within a timed standard. 

“We’ve got Soldiers who literally have never touched either weapon system,” Pagliei explained. 

Following successful completion of GST, the Soldiers moved to the range, where they started zeroing their weapons, with crews comprised of both experienced and new shooters. 

“I’ve been in a weapons squad for a long time, so I felt like it was going to be sort of repetitive,” explained Sgt. Brian Cook, assigned to Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. “But I’ve actually learned a lot more, as far as the [training manuals] changing every couple years and how to run ranges.” 

As the week progressed, Soldiers fired approximately 50,000 rounds during day and night live fires, firing over known and unknown distances as well as single and multiple engagements with interlocking sectors of fire, while also training on the occupation of a machine gun positions, range cards and shooting with night vision and thermal weapons sights.

Additionally, Soldiers learned participated in a range operation course, learning the responsibilities of range staff and how to run a crew-served weapons qualification course. 

“As a weapons tam leader, you don’t get to do that too often, you don’t really see how the ranges are run or how they’re set up,” Cook explained. “It’s cool to see it from that other side as well as to learn how to do it, and to learn how to run the range.”

Soldiers from units including the Winchester-based 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team; the Emporia-based 1710th Transportation Company, 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group; the Danville-based 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th IBCT; and the Gate City-based 1032nd Transportation Company, 1030th Transportation Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group attended the course. 

Virginia National Guard Soldiers train on the M240B machine gun Sept. 13, 2017, during the state’s first-ever Crew-Served Weapons Course, hosted by the 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti)


More on the Crew-Served Weapons Course & the 183rd RTI: