Fire support crews prep for gunnery

Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, complete various call for fire exercises Aug. 28 for their Fire Support Team Certification.

U.S. Army/Sgt. Quentin Johnson

As gunnery approaches, tankers and infantrymen are not the only soldiers who will have the opportunity to hone their skills in the field.

Fire support specialists throughout the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, conducted fire support team certification at various sites on Fort Hood from Aug. 20 through Sept. 7.

Certification is conducted twice a year to assess the support specialist’s proficiency and competency while ensuring their training is validated for gunnery — a series of ranges for armor personnel to become proficient in their skills, according to Chief Warrant Officer-3 Louis Campos, the brigade’s targeting officer.

Known as the “Black Jack Brigade,” months of planning went into the setup for the certification testing for each of its battalions as they trained to hold their own certification testing sites. This helps alleviate time issues with all the testing needed, Campos added.

For almost three weeks, 2nd Brigade soldiers were tested on multiple aspects of their job at the individual and four-man crew levels.

Soldiers are tested for certification in the following: an Army physical fitness test, land navigation, range finder operations, communications, observation point set up, GPS training, call-for-fire exercises, a 50-question written test, computer and software training.

“My soldiers trained for these events for months,” said Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Felix, fire support operations noncommissioned officer for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment. “We conducted hands-on training in the motor pool and field exercises to ensure the crews were prepared for certification.”

Success has not come without struggles as most support specialists found certain events challenging.

“Most of the soldiers have seen challenges with the written test covering aspects of an (fire support specialist’s) job,” Felix added. “Newer soldiers did well despite their lack of experience.”

Spc. Nathan Zielinski, a support specialist with 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, said although he has not taken the written test yet, he is not worried.

“We have been prepping for these certifications for months,” he said. “Everything is great thus far.”

Zielinski stated he is very excited about certifying before gunnery. He has high expectations about the tested events and knows the certification is essential for the support specialists to move forward in their training.

“I have learned so much about fire support tasks, crew relations, the essentials of my job and preparations for future deployments — the knowledge is endless,” he said.

As the end of the certification process grows near, soldiers continue to remain competent, train to standard and make positive strides toward being prepared for gunnery, Campos said.

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