HARTFORD, Conn. - “Target!” screams the crew of a Humvee as their gunner, Connecticut Army National Guard Pfc. Buckley Ryan, finds his mark with the M240L machine gun.
Ryan is one of many Connecticut Army National Guardsmen assigned to the 143rd Military Police Company who recently spent some time behind the gun at Fort Drum, New York, for annual training. Military Police, often called MPs, mounted their Humvees and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicles, or M-ATVs, and conducted vehicle gunnery.
During gunnery, vehicle crews traverse the live-fire range’s maneuver area, also known as the maneuver box or “the box.” While in the box, the crews patrol from their vehicles, scanning for potential threats. They conduct defensive operations and repulse enemy attacks with their vehicle’s assigned weapon system — in this case, a .50-caliber M2 Browning machine gun or a 7.62mm M240L machine gun. They also conduct offensive operations, assaulting enemy positions.
“It was my first time being in a gunner position,” said Ryan. “This was all very new to me. Knowing the functions and all that. ... I was taught beforehand, but actually doing the thing is completely different.”
An evaluator rides with and grades the crews on their communication, weapon handling and marksmanship.
“The way I like to evaluate is … break it down into three categories: commands, engagements and mechanics,” said Connecticut Army National Guard Sgt. Ryan Mendoza-Murillo, one of the evaluators for the 143rd MP Company.
“Command-wise, his (Ryan’s) crew, the TC (truck commander), the driver was helping out. Engagement-wise, making sure they know what they are hitting, making sure they know where they are missing, why they are missing. And, mechanics-wise, the gunner (Ryan), he had a couple malfunctions. That’s bound to happen on these weapon systems. He worked through them. Really had no issues that were self-induced. Love to see that. He got that gun running, and kept it running.”
The crews also simulate their gunner becoming a casualty, known as a downed gunner drill. After removing the downed gunner from the turret, the truck commander climbs into the turret, assumes control of the vehicle’s weapon system and engages all remaining threats.
On his first attempt, Ryan was the fifth gunner out of seven to qualify.
“The gunner exercise really puts into perspective the multipurpose role that we have as military police officers,” said Connecticut Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Kelly Strba, the 143rd MP Company’s range safety officer. “We are ready to fight and support Connecticut’s Home Team if we were to be called up for a mission like this.”
In addition to gunnery, the MPs also aided medics from the 118th Multifunctional Medical Battalion, acting as simulated wounded Soldiers during a mass-casualty training exercise. And they set up and staffed checkpoints so engineers from the 250th Engineer Company (Multi-Role Bridge Company) could set up an improved ribbon bridge, enabling other units from the 143rd Regional Support Group to conduct a wet gap crossing.