Fort McCoy News November 28, 2014

Reserve MP unit builds M249 skills at Fort McCoy

STORY & PHOTOS BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

Fort McCoy's Range 34 served as an ideal training area for Soldiers from the 79th Military Police (MP) Company of Wabasha, Minn., to hold marksmanship and qualification training.

Photo for MP training article
Staff Sgt. Damon Brunow, platoon sergeant for the U.S. Army Reserve's 79th Military Police Company of Wabasha, Minn., directs Soliders from the tower during weapons qualification on the M249 machine gun at Range 34 on Fort McCoy's North Post.

"We are a combat support unit so we are essentially doing the same thing as an infantry unit," said Platoon Leader 1st Lt. Andrew Brooks of the 79th MP Company. "It's extremely important gunners remain up-to-date on these weapons as they would be carrying these weapons in a deployed environment at any time they are called to be there."

The unit trained with the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon System (SAWS), a primary weapon for Army MP units. It's a lightweight, gas-operated, magazine or disintegrating metallic link-belt fed, individually portable machine gun capable of delivering a large volume of effective fire.

"The M249 is a particularly versatile weapon," said Staff Sgt. Damon Brunow, platoon sergeant for 79th MP Company's 3rd Platoon. Brunow was the officer in charge during M249 SAWS training at Range 34.

"It's absolutely critical to MPs in that it serves as both a crew-served weapon and as an individual weapon," Brunow said. "It can be mounted atop a vehicle, or it can be carried by an individual Soldier. That dual role allows our MP Soldiers to maintain both mounted and dismounted functions."

By Army definition, MP units support the Army mission in battlefield operations, installation law-and-order operations and security of Army resources and installations. Sgt. 1st Class James Irwin, platoon sergeant for 79th MP Company's 1st Platoon, said the M249 provides a critical capability to that mission and has greater flexibility than the M60 machine gun that once served the same role.

Photo for MP training article
A 79th Military Police Company Soldier takes his turn at M249 qualification
at Range 34. All 12 Soldiers who fired the machine gun qualified on the weapon.

"It's nice because it's lighter, and the rounds marry up with the M4 rifles," said Irwin, a 34-year Army veteran. "It's also more portable than what we had with the M60s."

Brunow added, "The M249 is able to provide a large amount of firepower and yet still be portable."

All 12 79th MP Company Soldiers who participated in the training qualified. Irwin said that success, in part, is because they are able to come to Fort McCoy to get the training done.

"It's invaluable coming (to Fort McCoy) to train," Irwin said. "I have trained at several different posts … the facilities and ranges here are far and above those other places."

Brunow said he appreciated the help from Range Maintenance and Range Control in getting the training completed. Even before they arrived at Range 34, he said a Range Maintenance technician had made sure everything was operable and provided training on the range's computer system.

"They take their job very seriously and that's good — they are very professional," Brunow said. "We have found the Range Control folks maintain very high standards. That's understandable for the sake of safety and training. They also are all very easy to get along with — they are very personable."

Brooks added, "It makes our logistical world quite a bit easier (coming to Fort McCoy). When we get all the forces together, it's nice to have a place like Fort McCoy that's not too far away to come and train."

In addition to completing M249 training, 79th MP Company Soldiers also held qualification training on the M9 pistol and the M4 rifle over their three days of training. Irwin said they will continue to come back.

"I've been coming to Fort McCoy for almost all of the 34 years I've been in the Army," Irwin said.

"The more we train here, the more prepared (the Soldiers) are, and the quicker we can get them into the fight."

The 79th MP Company consists of more than 100 Reservists from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota.