Soldiers of the 510th Clearance Company, 20th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade, began training Jan. 23 to field their recently acquired FGM-148 Javelin “fire-and-forget” missile system.
The addition of the Javelin greatly enhances the unit’s combat strength, just in time for its upcoming deployment to Afghanistan, said Sgt. Richard Czerniak, a team leader in the company.
The Javelin anti-armor missile system is an improvement over the previous M-47 Dragon missile system, a command-wire missile system, which required soldiers to remain stationary while tracking the missile to its intended target. With the introduction of an on-board tracking system, soldiers are now able to move from their position immediately after firing the missile.
“I love learning about stuff like this, it’s a great weapon,” Czerniak said. “It mitigates the risk of sending soldiers in all the way.”
Along with the Javelin systems, soldiers also received a week of training provided by defense contractor Systems Studies & Simulation Inc.
“This is the only time I’ve ever trained with the Javelin,” Czerniak said. “The training is great, but it needs to be a little bit longer.”
Due to the recent Armywide rebudgeting efforts, the contractor was forced to make the course more compact, reducing it from two weeks to one said Andrew Reed, a senior specialist for the company.
“In spite of cutting down the timetable from 80 to 40 hours I still feel we are getting the necessary training to the soldiers,” Reed said. “Now it’s everything they need to know without all the additional stuff that would help, but not necessarily need to be included in the training.”
One of the key training events lost was the live fire of the missile system.
Each round, produced by Javelin Joint Venture, a partnership between Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, costs more than $70,000, Reed said. The time and money needed to coordinate a live fire was not feasible within the one-week time constraint.
“Since we don’t do a live fire, some of the training we do conduct has to do with our training devices for the Javelin,” he said. “That includes our Basic Skills Training which is an indoor trainer.”
The trainer is a virtual system through which soldiers can simulate all of the steps of fielding the weapons system, such as unpacking, loading, firing and reloading the weapon.
“The (systems) actually grade our soldiers harder than actual systems,” Reed said. “The reasons being that that soldier must fire the system perfectly every time.”
Being able to ensure that soldiers receive every possible opportunity for training is a source of pride for the instructors, many of whom are former soldiers themselves.
“Even though I can’t be in combat with soldiers anymore, I’m hoping that I can make a difference,” Reed said.