The morning sky was filled with numerous clouds giving the barren training area a picturesque background. The wind howled through, kicking up sand to help create a combat environment. Yet it couldn't compete with the power and thunderous boom of machine gun fire.
The servos (a hydraulic system) clicked and clacked initiating the firing of the M2 .50-caliber machine gun. A remote operated turret controlled by a soldier protected inside the vehicle, charged the M2 with a metallic clunk, then squeezed the trigger of a joystick resembling one used for a flight simulator. The sound of the wind disappears as machine gun fire takes its place.
Having a weapon system that can operate with the gunner protected inside the vehicle is vital in a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and high-yield Explosive environment for chemical troops.
With soldiers safely tucked inside of the "Fox" or Stryker vehicles, the excitement of being able to quickly locate a contaminated area and protect troops motivated Soldiers from the 181st (Fort Hood, Texas) and 63rd (Fort Campbell, Kentucky) chemical companies under the 2nd Chemical Battalion, from Fort Hood, Texas, to take their vehicles through the .50-caliber gunnery range at Yakima Training Center, May 9, 2012. This range is part of many tasks this and other CBRNE units will complete at their Defense CBRNE Response Force (DCRF) training exercise.
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Cody Hamm, executive officer of the 181st chemical company, was adamant in the purpose of the gunnery range.
"The gunnery out here is in case we have to go to Afghanistan or any other worldwide operation," explained Hamm. "It's to mitigate the loss of life and collateral damage and do anything to help the population. The Stryker crews would help the mass casualty decontamination crews during a stateside operation."
He's very positive about his unit being a part of a homeland security mission of this magnitude and pointed out the importance of a NBC RV Stryker to locate the "hot zone" after a CBRNE attack takes place.
"Its quick, we can maneuver it in, maneuver it out and do a route recon to find any chemical, biological, or radiological site," Hamm added.
The M93 "Fox" vehicle is also extremely capable points out Spc. Philip D. Justice, a vehicle commander from the 63rd Chemical Company, Fort Campbell, Ky.
"It makes me feel good knowing that my crew understands what they're doing," said Justice. "We're quick, very efficient with what we do. I know that we can get the job done."
Justice said the DCRF mission is a good thing to have and can also be used in other countries if needed. The "Fox" vehicles will be used for security, but also found they can be used in conjunction with the NBC RV Strykers after doing this unified training. He also enjoyed training with other chemical soldiers from within his brigade.
"By seeing how Strykers operate will allow us to use the Foxes and Stryker's to tackle one large mission together," said Justice. "It builds cohesion and camaraderie in the Chemical Corps."
The gunnery range may not be the main focus of the DCRF training, but it is a crucial part of the mission in its own regard by providing hands-on training necessary for the safety and security in a real-world mission whether it's in the U.S. or overseas.
Article by Sgt. Micah VanDyke, Army.mil