Arizona Guard MPs fire on the move

Arizona Guard MPs fire on the move

Arizona Army National Guard Sgt. Kevin Treece, left, and Spc. Daniel Everhard, both with the 856th Military Police Company in Bellemont, Ariz., ride in a M-1151 Humvee during a convoy live fire exercise at Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz., March 7, 2015. Treece, the vehicle’s range safety officer, supervised Everhard who manned a Mark 19 40mm grenade machine gun during the exercise conducted on a special range. The range, which is designed for convoy live fire, allowed gunners to fire at targets while their tactical vehicles moved along a dirt road. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Brian A. Barbour)

YUMA, Ariz. - Dust rises as a military convoy rolls across the gravel road.   Tactical armored vehicles reach the crest of hill when a Soldier in the gun turret yelled down to his truck commander inside, “tank, 600 meters!”  From inside the M1151 Humvee, the command “engage” was bellowed back.


Arizona Army National Guard Spc. Blake Hartwick depressed the trigger on his M2 .50 caliber machine gun, sending out a barrage of bullets. Immediately after, sounds of other automatic weapons in the convoy joined the chorus of gunfire.


The weapons training exercise, which occurred March 8, 2015 at Yuma Proving Ground was the first time AZARNG’s 856th Military Police Company from Bellemont, Ariz., conducted a convoy live-fire lane with M1151 Humvees and M1117 Armored Security Vehicles since completing their National Guard Reaction Force training mission.


“Previous training had been dealing more with how to operate in the United States, how to talk with civilians, and handle situations here,” said Capt. Jerett Burman, commander of the 856th MP Company. “Anything from earthquakes, fires, to civil unrest, things of that nature. We’ve been exercising primarily in that mind set for that two years, so this is the first time getting back into our combat mindset.”


Because the 856th previously focused on how to operate locally within Arizona and with U.S. citizens for the last two years, it’s important for the Soldiers to receive this weapons live-fire training.


“Now we have to go out and re-learn what it’s like to fight a hostile enemy,” said Burman.


As the convoy of four tactical vehicles rolled down the road of the live-fire lane, old rusting tanks litter the range, appearing as if some fierce battle occurred here decades ago.


“The adrenaline was flowing,” said Hartwick, as the lead M1151 Humvee of the convoy approached its first target on the lane.


Hartwick’s lips clenched and his face scrunched up with intense focus. His hands tightly gripped the handles his machine gun.  He fired off a burst of rounds striking the side of a tank out on the range. Puffs of grey smoke were created as the bullets impacted off its rusted armor. Hartwick’s expression changed to that of satisfaction.


During the four-day drill, the 856th also conducted weapons familiarization with the Common Remotely Controlled Weapons Station II (CROWS II).  The system is new to the Arizona Guard. 


Inside the Humvee, where the CROWS II is installed, the gunner sits behind the driver seat with a video monitor in front of him at eye level.  At the right sits a joystick resembling the ones found in the cockpit of a fighter jet. Soldiers in the company compare it to playing a video game as they use a joystick and monitor to acquire targets, safe behind the armor of their Humvee.


“We don’t have to be exposed on the turrets of our vehicles to operate a weapons system, said Spc. Matthew Figley, a trainer for the CROWS II, in Detachment 1.


It’s an extremely stable platform on which Soldiers can mount four different weapons systems,” said Finley. “The system reduces 80% of the weapons recoil which greatly heightens the success rate to impact on target verses the number of rounds going down range.”


The CROWS II not only keeps Soldiers protected inside their armored vehicle it also increases the accuracy of the rounds being sent down range, said Figley.


Back at the convoy live-fire range, the 856th MPs are rotating out to the lane in squad size convoys. Soldiers who have completed the exercise take a moment to relax, several sitting down in the shade, leaning against the side of their vehicles, eating their meals, ready to eat (MREs).   


After two long days shooting weapons, Hartwick was enthusiastic about the training.


“You know, you’re about to pull the trigger and you’re revved-up for that,” he said. “You get excited. I never really know when I’m going to put hands on a .50 cal again, let alone shoot it in a moving Humvee.”