Rockwood guard unit trains with big guns at Camp Shelby

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By Staff Sgt. Thomas Greene

Company H, 2nd Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment recently completed its two week annual
training — or AT — exercise at Camp Shelby, Miss.

The Tennessee Army National Guard unit from Rockwood trained the final two weeks of July, performing tank gunnery qualification for the first time since before being deployed to Iraq in February 2010.

“The purpose of this AT was to get our soldiers back into their combat mission training and into their military occupational specialty,” said Capt. Kenneth Rivard of Knoxville, company commander.

“We've been away from the tank since 2008 and had a lot of personnel changes within the unit, but this gave us a chance to work together and identify strengths and weakness,” Rivard added.

“I am pleased with the job the tank company did here.”

This particular qualification was the first step of many levels the tank company will complete in the next couple of years.

“This AT was a reset year after deployment, and the soldiers are training for whatever future combat missions we could be called on,” said 278th ACR Command Sgt. Major Dan Jennings of Clarksville.

“While deployed, these soldiers operated other types of equipment than their main battle tank.”

Staff Sgt. Michael Smith, 3rd platoon tank commander, said he had a new gunner this AT and was pleased with the way his crew came together during the firing exercise.

“Whether training or in combat your crew (TC, gunner, ammunition loader and vehicle driver) has to operate as a team,” said the staff sergeant, who hails from Maryville.

“Any weakness or delay can cost time or create confusion, and in combat this could be fatal.”

Sgt. 1st Class Charles Keith, headquarters platoon of Soddy Daisy, said the TC's job is to command the crew and vehicle as well as identify and prioritize the order multiple targets are fired upon by giving fire commands.

The gunner, according to Sgt. Bobby Johnson, headquarters platoon of Chattanooga, scans and identifies threats and targets and relays this information to the TC.

“The TC will give the fire command, including the target, type of ammunition and/or weapon and I pull the trigger,” Johnson added.

Pfc. Brian Wilson, a 1st platoon loader from Kingston, said he listens to the TC's fire command, chooses the identified type of ammunition, loads it into the 120MM gun breach, shouts “up” and gets out of the way if the guns recoil.

Pvt. Jonathan Stinson is the youngest member of Company H. The 1st platoon driver from Jamestown graduated from basic training at Fort Knox, Ky., in April.

Stinson said the driver’s job is to move the 62-ton empty tank in a safe but expedient manner and to position it  in a covered and concealed position, exposing as little of the tank as possible to the enemy, but enough for the TC and gunner to be able to identify threats and targets.

Keith’s tank crew won regimen-
tal honors during the AT firing exercise.

His crew consisted of gunner Johnson as gunner, loader Spc. Josh Evans of Speedwell as loader and driver Spc. Charles Teffeteller of Maryville.

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Staff Sgt. Thomas Greene is with the 278th Public Affairs Office.