By Lacey Justinger, The Real McCoy
They come from many types of units: engineer, postal, medical
and infantry. Soldiers with real-life experience join together to form
a team of weapons-systems trainers for mobilizing Soldiers -- the Fort
McCoy First Army Small Arms Readiness Group (SARG).
Operation Warrior Trainer
personnel and members of the First Army SARG qualify with
.50-caliber machine guns at Fort McCoy ranges. (Photo
by Spc. Jacob H. Probst)
"The SARG team's purpose is to conduct primary
marksmanship training on individual and crew-served weapons for all
deploying Soldiers," said Master Sgt. Jack G. Pardy of the SARG.
"Our mission is to instill confidence in all Soldiers leaving, so
that they know, when they place their sights on a target, they can
effectively engage and eliminate the threat."
"If we enlighten individuals on how to handle, respect,
properly clear and treat their weapons, maintenance, muzzle awareness
and safety, then the negligent discharges and the potential of
accidentally shooting a fellow Soldier should diminish to zero,"
said Sgt. Randall L. Tyler. "SARG
is here to help Soldiers become aware of exactly what they're doing
with bullets and show them the damage that happens with these rounds.
If we can teach Soldiers how to fire better and be able to eliminate
the threat, then they'll be better Soldiers."
"Soldiers shooting weapons is such an important aspect and
viable part of the mission today," said Pardy. "Deployed
Soldiers don't move anywhere without their weapons. Marksmanship is
important in a gun battle when you're boots on ground walking down the
street doing security."
SARG was formed in 1995 as a mobile resource for Reserve units
to use for weekend weapons training instruction. In 2003, SARG teams
moved to mobilization sites for deploying Soldiers' marksmanship
training. Unit members troubleshoot and coach Soldiers through
individual problem areas in multiple weapons systems, including
From 2003 until 2005, the SARG team conducted weapons system
mobilization training at Fort McCoy, during which time they received
the Superior Unit Award for providing training in support of the
Global War on Terrorism. Many of the SARG Soldiers qualify as an
expert, sharp shooter or marksman on a variety of weapons.
"If we're going to teach it, then we have to qualify as
experts on it ourselves," said Staff Sgt. Tony C. Bunnell.
"We're taking care of Soldiers going over there so they know
everything they can. At the same time, the training has the
trickle-down effect. When we go back to wherever we came from -- to
the four corners of America -- we'll carry weapons training on there
"It doesn't matter how many push ups you can do or how
fast you run -- weapons systems are faster if you can't shoot back.
That's why we teach it," said Sgt. Jeremy T. Carlile. "So we
cover it all, from machine-gun optics to night scopes. There are a lot
of tricks and tips we've learned over time and in-country, and now we
have the opportunity to get that information out to the individuals
before they go over."
"Soldiers need a knowledge base from instructional
capabilities, communication skills and experience," said Pardy.
"The SARG training has built a reputation for expertise,
knowledge of ranges, weapons systems and instructor capabilities. The
best weapons trainers are the most passionate, and students feed off
First Army Small Arms Readiness Group Soldiers set up a series of M-240B machine guns on
Fort McCoy ranges.
(Photo by Spc. Jacob H. Probst) (The Real McCoy Online Extra)
Starting in March, the SARG will take over weapons systems
training from the 181st Infantry Brigade and will be stationed at Fort
McCoy for the entire 2008 mobilization season. They will train
Soldiers on a variety of weapons systems: .50-caliber machine gun, M-4
carbine, M-9 pistol, M-16 rifle, MK-19 machine-gun grenade launcher,
M-203 grenade launcher, M-240B machine gun, and M-249 squad automatic
weapon. Soldiers will train on skill-level-one tasks, including
four-minute gunner skills crew-served weapons disassemble and assemble
"The reason we have success is our emotion, enthusiasm and
passion is applied to the instruction tools and skills. These are
contagious to deploying Soldiers who get excited about what they are
learning," said Sgt. Maj. Neal G. Dickey, the noncommissioned
officer in charge of the Fort McCoy First Army SARG.
"Our competitive shooters train trainers and our trainers
train Soldiers. We try to recruit the top shooters or instructors
in-country to use as a base to develop the Operation Warrior Trainers
in our environment. We marry technical and instructional skills with
deployment skills to form very viable instructors. This impacts
everyone down to the Soldier in the smallest unit in the country.
Future deployments have a better basis for survival in combat."
"It's very important to know the effects of a bullet when
it hits a target and whatever is behind it," said Spc. Jorrell D.
Buchanan. "Soldiers may be extensively familiar with a weapons
system but a lot of Soldiers in the Army don't know the ballistic side
of a bullet. As long as we can get that pertinent information out, the
weapons are an extension of our bodies."
In December, the Fort McCoy SARG unit trained for two weeks in
the cold, ice and snow to learn how the weapons react differently in
shooting temperatures and how the climate affects the ballistics of a
bullet. They will draw on this experience to help Soldiers deploying
to Afghanistan with problems they may encounter due to environment.
"If you can hit a target when you're shivering, you can
hit a target when you're sweating," said Spc. Jacob H. Probst.
"This unit is unique because it has the best shooters in the
world, as well as new guys who are working on marksmanship skills
experience beyond in-theater."
Instructors fire the identical weapons on the exact ranges in
the same conditions as mobilizing Soldiers to have a complete and
personal knowledge of what they are teaching.
Pardy compared this to visiting a doctor who reads the
information out of a book verses one with hands-on experience.
"Weapons trainers are specialized like surgeons," he
said. "They have to know everything there is to know so that when
a Soldier is 'broke,' the instructor can fix them. The end result is a
Soldier who can effectively employ a weapons system and keep it from
Pardy explained that the SARG philosophy demands that the
ranges are an extension of the classroom. Trainers believe live fire
gives Soldiers ownership and accountability of the weapon. Time on the
qualification ranges is used to build enthusiasm and confidence.
"No one wants to fail, and if we don't set them up for
success they are bound to," said Pardy. "Whatever confidence
Soldiers leave here with will stay with them in-county. If they don't
leave here with a high confidence level, they are going to have
doubts. When you go into something with doubts, you start having
Pardy added the SARG team has received outstanding support at
Fort McCoy, where Soldiers and civilians recognize the importance of
weapons system training. "This is far and above the best range
facility in the country -- a little-known jewel," he said.
(Justinger is a public affairs specialist
for Eagle Systems and Services Inc., contractor for CONUS Support Base