Ohio National Guard News

Annual Training 2018: Camp Grayling

The Brains of the Operation

Story and photos by Sgt. Joanna Bradshaw, 196th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Spc. Steven Shonk, a wheeled vehicle mechanic with the 211th Maintenance Company and native of Springfield, Ohio, secures his helmet in the turret of an armored High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) prior to a range qualifying task June 24, 2018, at Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center in Grayling, Mich. Several Ohio Army National Guard units conducted their two-week annual training at Camp Grayling in June.

Spc. Brandyn Pailin, a member of the 1487th Transportation Company and a native of Elida, Ohio, prepares to fire an M240 machine gun from the turret of a specially armored High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV).

Spc. Cody Smith, a radio and communications security specialist with the 211th Maintenance Company and native of Perrysburg, Ohio, clears a .50-caliber machine gun to prepare for his turn.

Cpl. Seth Tigner, a wheeled vehicle mechanic with the 211th Maintenance Company and native of Hanover, Ohio, peers down the iron sites of his M240B machine gun before a move-and-shoot course. The shooters were given enough live ammunition to fire 35 rounds per target, at 45 targets to qualify on the gunnery course.

Pfc. Alexia “Mad Dog” Thompson, a chemical specialist with the 155th Chemical Battalion and native of Stoutsville, Ohio, attaches a Light Weapon Thermal Sight to an M240B machine gun.

CAMP GRAYLING JOINT MANEUVER TRAINING CENTER, Mich. (06/24/18) — In the body, the brain controls all functions and movements. It receives intelligence from sources such as the eyes in order to give proper commands to muscles in response. Not a single body part moves without direct instruction from this central hub of the nervous system. On a firing range, a similar hub looms over shooters just like the brain looms over the body. No trigger finger twitches, no Soldier budges without clear direction from the control tower.

This was the case on a recent Sunday afternoon in June as a group of Ohio National Guard Soldiers prepared to fire during their two-week annual training at Camp Grayling.

All levels of leadership from team to unit are focusing this annual training on range and field operations that prepare their Soldiers for rapid deployments to combat operations in austere environments.

Some of the training occurred on a Multi-Purpose Range Complex (MPRC), where the tower contained several highly trained and experienced evaluators who were meticulous about standards and regulations. With discipline and concentration, each target hit was counted and recorded using both long-distance thermal cameras and computers registering targets knocked down by bullets; a satisfying sight for any Soldier with a finger on the trigger.

These Soldiers, with their happy trigger fingers, have been a refreshing sight to Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Muntz, a native of Genoa, Ohio, and the master gunner in the tower of the MPRC, who applauds their attitude and motivation.

In preparation for this qualification range, the Soldiers had to learn how to assemble and disassemble weapons such as the M240B, M249 and .50-caliber machine guns. A scenario simulator called the Virtual Convoy Operations Trainer (VCOT) taught them when and how to fire, while range personnel assisted with reloading and fixing weapons malfunctions.

After being qualified on their weapons, the Soldiers practiced mounting, moving with, and shooting their weapons using blank rounds — ammunition cartridges with gunpowder but no bullets. In order to shoot with live rounds, however, a specially outfitted range and control tower was necessary. The MPRC allowed military units to shoot their high-caliber weapons out of stationary or moving armored vehicles. These ranges were made up of dirt paths for armored vehicles to traverse, elements of cover and concealment, and targets placed at varied distances.

When performing their final qualification lanes, live rounds flew downrange under the watchful eye of tower safety officers.

Sgt 1st Class Chris Carlisle, of Dayton, Ohio and an assistant operations noncommissioned officer with the 2nd Squadron, 107th Cavalry Regiment, was one of more than 30 personnel who were in the tower, running the range 24-hours a day since mid-June, though range operations had been in planning stages since last November.

“It’s like a big puzzle,” Muntz said, referring to the preparation for range operations. Muntz and Carlisle assembled everything from the ammunition to personnel in order to procure a functional range.

The two noncommissioned officers were also integral pieces in expanding the number of ranges used to accomplish the training requirements for thousands of Ohio National Guard Soldiers.

Muntz and Carlisle said they hope that after this training, Soldiers will be able to return to their units qualified and able to become the brains of the operation themselves.

  share on facebook