Bandits from 1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, recently conducted crew gunnery training to confirm mastery of motorized crew fundamentals and maximize lethality.
The two-week gunnery training that ended Friday qualified 49 crews on their assigned machine guns; MK19 grenade launchers; and tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided missiles, building crew confidence in the process.
Captain Daniel T. Little, commander, A Troop 1-32nd Cav. Regt., said Bandit troopers need to be proficient in crew tasks and weapons systems so they are able to conduct continuous reconnaissance and surveillance operations in any environment.
“This gunnery exercise tested the Bandits in a variety of harsh weather conditions including periods of daylight and darkness which increased the overall complexity. Crews were forced to transition rapidly between optics and lasers in order to identify and engage multiple targets within the time limit. Our crews executed their tasks expertly,” Little said.
Specialist Luis Abad, an A Troop gunner, said his favorite part of gunnery was “waking up in the cold” because it built up his character as an individual and Soldier. Not only did gunnery build the grit and resilience of Bandit troopers, but it also reinforced the “deploy and fight now mentality” that is first on the 1st BCT commander’s list of expectations for the Bastogne brigade.
“Anything can happen in combat and gunnery allowed [my] whole crew to move and execute using live rounds, giving everyone a good grasp of what their job is within the truck,” said Spc. Joseph Levato, a B Troop MK19 gunner.
The Bandits recognized the importance of growing as teammates within their crews during gunnery in order to maximize their performance and lethality.
“[Gunnery] helped me develop by giving me a hands on situation for engaging targets while working as a [mounted] team [member], unlike regular ranges that usually focus on individual performance,” said Pfc. Louis Dekany, an A Troop gunner. “It develops everyone’s roles within the team.”
The teamwork of the crews led them to succeed in the competition for the coveted title of “Top Gun,” awarded to the highest-performing crew for each weapon system at gunnery.
Winning crews included Sgt. David Kelly, Spc. Brando Cervantes, and Pvt. James Osburn for the TOW system; Sgt. 1st Class Eric Harder, Sgt. Ayrton Leiser, and Pvt. Brandon Beecher for the MK19; Sgt. Seth Jarrell, Spc. Jonathan Passman, and Pfc. Nickalas Woody for machine gun; and Lt. Col. Adisa King, Spc. Zackery Khan, and Spc. Austin Heiser for the Commander’s Cup on the mine-resistant ambush-protected, all-terrain vehicle. The competition sparked crews to work harder and outperform each other.
Staff Sergeant Anthony Renza, a senior scout in B Troop, said his favorite part of gunnery was “being in the running for Top Gun and seeing [his] crew come alive with motivation and drive to succeed.”
Notably, D Troop successfully qualified nine crews, which is the highest number of qualified crews in any forward support company in Bastogne. D Troop now holds the only qualified crew of food service specialists. This shows the unit’s focus on ensuring every trooper is trained and ready for combat, no matter their military occupational specialty.
The troopers of 1st Squadron developed their fundamental motorized crew skills, contributed to 1-32nd CAV’s readiness, and displayed their proficiency and lethality during gunnery training. The Bandits will continue to train to ensure they have the most lethal crews in the brigade and are ready to fight and conduct reconnaissance whenever called, in any conditions.