Fort McCoy News June 23, 2017

Soldiers fire up gunnery training

STORY AND PHOTOS BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

Hundreds of Soldiers at Fort McCoy for the Exportable Combat Training Capability (XCTC) Exercise completed gunnery training with vehicle-mounted weapons at Fort McCoy's Range 26 as part of exercise operations.

A Soldier with the 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment of the Illinois National Guard who's at Fort McCoy for training in the Exportable Combat Training Capability Exercise prepares a weapon for gunnery training at Range 26 on June 9 at Fort McCoy.
A Soldier with the 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment of the Illinois
National Guard who's at Fort McCoy for training in the Exportable Combat
Training Capability Exercise prepares a weapon for gunnery training at
Range 26 on June 9 at Fort McCoy.



Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment complete live-fire gunnery training at Range 26 on June 9 at Fort McCoy.
Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment complete live-fire
gunnery training at Range 26 on June 9 at Fort McCoy.



Gunnery crews line up for their turn for live-fire training June 9 at Range 26.
Gunnery crews line up for their turn for live-fire training June 9 at Range 26.

The training includes Soldiers with the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and Joint Forces Headquarters-Illinois of the Illinois Army National Guard — the units coordinating the XCTC Exercise. XCTC is the Army National Guard's program to provide participants with an experience similar to an Army combat training center at home station or a regional training center, such as Fort McCoy, according to the National Guard Bureau.

The gunnery training within the XCTC Exercise helps build platoon-level proficiency for brigade combat teams prior to entering a combat training center as well as company-level proficiency for units prior to entering the Army's available force pool in the Army Force Generation Cycle.

Capt. Brandon Hunsaker, commander of D Company, 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment of the Illinois Army National Guard, said the Range 26 action was part of his unit's participation in Table VI of Army gunnery.

There are 12 gunnery tables in all. Table VI features crew qualification, which is designed to evaluate gunnery crews on engaging moving and stationary targets using all vehicle weapon systems while in offensive or defensive postures, according to the Army definition for the table.

"Gunnery is a highly structured set of training," Hunsaker said. "It begins with basic Soldier skills and goes all the way up to platoon-directed training. At Range 26, we (were) training at the crew level. Doing this allows us to evaluate Soldiers.
"This also is continuous training," Hunsaker said. "We'll keep doing it until we get up to that platoon level."

First Sgt. Kevin Driscoll, also with 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment, said Fort McCoy served as an ideal place to complete the gunnery training. "Here (at Fort McCoy) we get to move in large open spaces and get good group training," Driscoll said.
Hunsaker said the XCTC training, overall, also is great for all units in the exercise.

"The XCTC (Exercise) is a great thing for us because we have our First Army counterpart that is up here to train alongside us," Hunsaker said, referring to the more than 500 Soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment of Fort Campbell, Ky., who are supporting the Illinois Army National Guard with the exercise. "They can help evaluate us as a platoon and help us go out and do those platoon-level tasks. This also is a great opportunity for the Illinois Guard to get out and get involved in this realistic training. This is something we don't have very often. The last time we did an XCTC rotation was 2012, so it's something that doesn't come along every year."

Illinois Army National Guard Public Affairs Director Lt. Col. Brad Leighton said approximately 4,000 Soldiers are participating in the exercise, including 3,200 Illinois Soldiers and about 800 active-duty service members. This includes an infantry battalion from the Puerto Rico National Guard in the Illinois numbers.

The 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team includes six battalions with companies from the southern tip of Illinois all the way up to Woodstock near the northern border that will be a part of this training, Leighton said.

The exercise also featured a variety of scenarios and training environments designed to test Soldiers and exercise venues, in addition to Range 26, were located throughout the Fort McCoy range complex.