June 19, 2005
Virginia Soldiers rock tank target with 200 rounds of fire
By Staff Sgt. A.J. Coyne
BLACKSTONE, Va. -- Taking out a tank from 500 meters away is no easy task but it was one of just many skills some Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers worked on during their annual training June 13-25 at Fort Pickett, Va.
On June 18, troops from the 2nd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Inf. Division fired more than 200 rounds from AT-4 anti-tank weapons from a hill overlooking the Fort Pickett impact area. For most of the Soldiers, it was the first time they’d fired the weapon since their annual training the previous summer.
To add to the realism, other 29th Inf. Div. units were firing artillery rounds from another part of the training area. Those rounds flew overhead and exploded several hundred meters beyond the frame of an old tank that served as the AT-4 target.
One hundred and eighty Soldiers were slated to go through the firing lines and shoot more than 260 rounds before the day ended.
“There’s a lot of good motivation among the Soldiers,” said 1st Lt. Kevin Shifflett, a platoon leader with B Company. “It’s great to see them learning. They’re picking it up real quick.”
As always, safety was a major concern when firing live rounds. There were only two firing points and only one Soldier fired at a time. Each pair of Soldiers was joined by two noncommissioned officers who acted as line safeties.
Sgt. Dusty Clymore, who last fired the AT-4 in 2002, served as a safety for two Soldiers before firing the weapon himself. He was disappointed that his shot hit low but was happy to get the chance to fire the weapon again.
“It’s not too bad when you’re firing,” Clymore said of the weapon’s power. “But when you’re the safety, it rocks you pretty good.”
The unit worked with range control to coordinate the training, which wasn’t easy considering the unit was in the middle of AT and trying to accomplish other tasks.
During their annual training the Soldiers also conducted squad leader training, occupied a patrol base, and fired squad automatic weapons, M-16’s and M-203 grenade launchers. The day before the AT-4 training, the battalion’s troops were treated rides in an UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter as a reward for all their great work.
They were all part of the training schedule for which the unit has been preparing for five months. With so many weapons fired and so many tasks completed, the end was almost in sight, making it easier to relax and deem this year’s annual training a success.