For more than five years, civilian mobile training teams have instructed soldiers to operate the Commonly Remote Operated Weapons Station upon their arrival in combat zones, but now the 1st Cavalry Division and III Corps are bringing the CROWS training to Fort Hood.
The post is scheduled to start the Army’s first self-supportive CROWS Academy this month to increase soldiers’ deployment readiness and their proficiency with the station, said III Corps and Fort Hood Command Sgt. Maj. Scott Schroeder.
An M-153 CROWS II is a remote weapon turret mounted on various military vehicles able to adapt to four weapons systems: the .50-caliber Browning machine gun, MK-19 grenade launcher, M-240 machine gun and M-249 machine gun.
The academy is slated to align with the Fort Hood Air Assault Course and Combat Leaders Course under what will be Fort Hood’s Warrior Training Academy, said the air assault school’s 1st Sgt. James Williams Jr.
There are two nominative academy sites, with the primary at Fort Hood main and the second at North Fort Hood — to instruct National Guardsmen and Reservists, Williams said. The academy is scheduled to sign for more than 12 stations within the next few weeks.
Priority entry for CROWS Academy will be senior noncommissioned officers — including squad leaders and platoon sergeants, truck commanders, senior leaders, deploying units and support units that convoy frequently while deployed to combat zones, Schroeder said.
About three NCOs, two from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, and one from 3rd Cavalry Regiment, have already been certified as senior CROWS instructors, while 15 other 2nd Brigade NCOs have been awarded instructor titles, said Staff Sgt. Gerald Bush, with the brigade’s 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, and a senior CROWS instructor. A mobile training team validated the senior instructors to begin the course.
The academy will support two types of training: a three-week train the trainer course, which validates intermediate and senior level CROWS instructors, and a basic one week operators class for all soldiers, Bush said.
Schroeder said reasons to introduce such a course are three-fold: Ensure senior leadership is well-versed in training their soldiers adequately before deployment, reduce the costs of training and ensure noncommissioned officers are qualified as instructors.
He said every life saved because of the training is worth the time invested to start the academy.
“Having our own equipment and NCOs as instructors means lives saved, because soldiers are being properly trained,” Schroeder said. “This will also save the Army money.”
Schroeder said the increased training capacity adds master trainers within Fort Hood units, which creates more effective leaders.
Sgt. 1st Class Gilbert Padilla, a platoon sergeant with 2nd Brigade’s 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, and CROWS instructor, said as a leader of 16 artillerymen, the existence of a CROWS academy is vital for training.
“The course has been very effective,” Padilla said. “I want my soldiers trained proficiently before a deployment so they don’t lack knowledge, especially on a weapon system as versatile and life saving as the CROWS.”
If possible, Padilla will send all his soldiers to the operator’s course within the next few months and says he recommends the academy to all leaders and their soldiers.
“Being artillery, my squad and I haven’t frequently utilized crew serve weapons that work with the CROWS,” he said. “As a leader, being proficient on those weapons makes me the subject matter expert my soldiers need.”
With sufficient amount of training aids, simulators, equipment and instructors, classes should begin on time with the courses scheduled to integrate with the Army Training Requirements and Resources System in the near future, Bush said.