AUGUSTA, Mich. – Even as COVID-19 creates additional challenges for training and readiness, a Black Hawk door gunner from the Michigan National Guard figured out an innovative way to meet mission requirements and save taxpayer dollars.
“The device I made is a Black Hawk crew chief door-gunnery simulator,” said Staff Sgt. Eric Wolschleger, 3rd Battalion, 238th General Support Aviation Regiment, Michigan Army National Guard. “The purpose of the device is to simulate the M240 machine gun on table 2 gunnery for Black Hawk helicopter crew chiefs.”
The device was designed as a cost-effective way to manage training expenses. Instead of training in the helicopter, Soldiers can practice gunnery skills with the simulator on the ground.
“The purpose of it is to save flight and maintenance time,” said Wolschleger. “When we fly, we would have to fly the helicopter to a suitable range site and land the helicopter, which has a lot of fuel costs and blade time, which leads to a lot of maintenance time and fatigue for the crew.”
“By using this device, we can focus on the required training and get our personnel through quickly while performing the ground fire simulation,” said Wolschleger.
Although a simulator, this device has the look and feel of what a door gunner in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter would experience.
“I built it to have the height and adjustment of the seat from the lowest setting of the seat to the highest setting of the seat and also from the rear-most position of the seat to the forward of the seat,” said Wolschleger. “The actual side-to-side dimension of the mount is the exact dimension of the door gunner window of the helicopter.”
Others hailed the simulator as nothing short of an exact emulation of the real thing.
“It simulates the aircraft almost exactly to where the weapon is compared to how we would shoot it in an aircraft,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jeff Doebler, 3rd Battalion, 238th General Support Aviation Regiment, Michigan Army National Guard. “It’s a great apparatus and the fact we were able to come out here and train on it was amazing.”
“It’s great for us to get out here and meet the training requirements, especially for all the new door gunners and pilots,” said Doebler.
The look and feel and parts should be familiar to gunners as they get into their firing position.
“The swiveling arm is the mount taken out of the helicopter,” said Wolschleger. “The mount that I built into it was to be able to mount the helicopter arm in there so that it is an exact replica of the helicopter as it would be mounted into the actual helicopter.”
Although the simulator may look cumbersome, users found it comfortable to use.
“It felt pretty good,” said Doebler. “With the amount of ease we were able to shoot and complete the familiarization firing requirement, especially in a time like this, was huge.”
The Michigan aviation units have never used a simulator like this, and Wolschleger showed his pride in assisting his unit with readiness requirements.
“This is the first time the Michigan Guard has used this,” said Wolschleger. “I am very happy to help out and happy to help the Michigan National Guard save the amount of manpower and money that will expedite the training our Soldiers can receive from this.”
There is no doubt the coronavirus crisis affects training requirements and makes Soldiers start thinking outside the box how to complete the mission still.
“When things affect your unit readiness and your training that need to get done, creativity and ingenuity is something that becomes invaluable,” said Doebler. “It’s amazing Staff Sgt. Wolschleger was able to come up with this idea and actually make it, put into use, and the result was a very usable piece of equipment that many Soldiers are able to use - that is a great testament to Staff Sgt. Wolschleger.”