A series of exercises on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson has drawn participants from an Army unit in Fairbanks, as gunners in the unit's high-speed personnel carriers train with their weapons.

Live-fire Stryker APC gunnery training, featuring .50-caliber machine guns, as well as 120mm mortar certification is ongoing this week at Fort Richardson. The 1-5 Infantry Bobcat Battalion from Fort Wainwright is conducting follow-on work to the main exercise: Operation Punch Bowl, a battalion-level, combined-arms live-fire exercise.

"This is training certifying the Stryker crews," said 1st Lt. Chris Barber. "It's a multi-part system that engages them engaging in pop-up targets in various battle positions and maneuvering the Stryker vehicle between those positions."

The eight-wheeled Stryker is formally classified as an infantry carrier vehicle, meant to quickly transport soldiers across the battlefield before they dismount and take the fight to the enemy. Fort Wainwright's Strykers carry machine-gun turrets, which are aimed and fired remotely by crew members from within the vehicle.

This week's exercise focuses on reacting to targets and controlling the Stryker.

"The gunnery exercise here is actually qualifying the actual gunner in the seat," said Staff Sgt. Matthew Daffron. "Between now and the next time, we do any gunnery. First it qualifies him for any system or training we want to do and second, so the gunner knows how to do his job, knows how to use the weapon system and ultimately do his job in combat."

Gunners taking the training course will face five engagements each at day and night.

"They are presented truck or troop targets in different amounts per engagement," Doffran said. "I believe the first target is two trucks, the second is one trooper -- it all depends."

Stryker gunner stations are equipped with a computer-driven screen, which shows a video feed of the machine gun's field of fire and allows gunners to change the kind of ammo it uses. The .50-caliber weapon is aimed and fired using a joystick with a trigger.

Stryker crew members take turns in the gunner and driver positions. Crews are timed and assessed on how fast they can locate the intended target, hit it and maneuver the Stryker through the course -- a tough task in engagements which last less than a minute.

"If you kill that target within 50 seconds, great, you'll get your score -- it then gets added to your overall score, which earns you a higher qualification level," Daffron said. "If not, you essentially fail that engagement more times than not just because of the fast timing; you have to engage the target, versus trying to correct a malfunction or if you run out of ammo in the middle of it."

Having the opportunity to train at JBER is a big advantage for the Bobcat Battalion.

"Well, for one thing, it allows us to tie it into the other training we were able to do here previously," Barber said. "It is part of an effort to maximize the training value of our time here in total."

There is also mortar certifying training going on as well as scout teams working with different trainers and engineer groups working on demolition. The soldiers will wrap up their training at JBER starting next week and some will head back to Fairbanks on February 20th with the rest making their way back around February 27th.  

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