The course’s primary point of focus was on the process that goes in to planning, preparing and executing unit-level training events, as well as how to schedule mandatory training events throughout the year.
“Its sole purpose is to provide a level of training to noncommissioned officers at the battalion and brigade level who are in the planning process,” said Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Flynn, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) master gunner.
A master gunner is a senior leader within the unit, who is the subject matter expert on all things training. That individual has a lot of experience in planning and executing weapon qualifications and gunnery, as well as having a full understanding of where to find the resources to execute those tasks.
The Army has a master gunner course at Ft. Benning, Ga., which is platform specific to various vehicles and runs roughly 20 weeks long.
The division only gets so many slots in those classes and is not authorized to have those qualified individuals in all the units on post, Flynn explained. There’s only three units, the cavalry squadrons, that are authorized a platform specific master gunner.
Flynn said he was approached by Maj. Gen. Andrew Poppas, 101st ABN DIV (AA) commanding general, to create a course that would help fill the gap for units that were not authorized master gunners, without putting a major strain on units by taking their NCOs for extended periods of time.
Because training manuals have since gone through a major overhaul, and the former course was eight weeks long, Flynn said he took what they did at the Ft. Benning Master Gunner Common Core course and abbreviated the topics to be more 101st Airborne Division focused. With the adjustments, he was able to shorten it to a two week course and make it more appealing to units.
“What we did was revamp the course, which was in play back in 2014, so that it fits today’s training objectives,” Flynn said.
The course, which had 36 students, covered various topics such as understanding what individual units are authorized for weapons, what the qualification standards are for those weapons, how to allocate ammo and properly schedule qualifications, etc.
Flynn said the topics covered are just the tip of the iceberg, but gives NCOs the resources to dive deeper into everything.
“This course gave them the base of ‘hey this is where I need to go for this, this is where I need to go for that’ and now it’s up to them to take that information back to their unit, read about it, get a plan together, then teach their Soldiers the right way to do things,” Flynn said.
The plan is to offer the course once a quarter, but it can be offered more frequently if the unit’s request it.
“The great thing about this course is… if the unit needs it, I can come down to their footprint and train,” Flynn said.
He added that he felt the class went well, but it’s a lot of information and trying to take all that information and condense it into two weeks is very difficult.
“What we fail to realize is that we have to train to fight tonight,” Flynn said. “And in order to do that, we have to understand how much time it takes to go from plan of execution to executing. That’s the end result I hope each student took from the class. Every minute you have with a Soldier is precious and we only have so many hours in a day, only so many days of training, so we have to take full advantage of that and the resources we have here at Ft. Campbell.”
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